Greece, Russia Bulgaria sign pipeline deal

Greece, Russia and Bulgaria finally signed an agreement yesterday to build a pipeline transporting Russian oil to the Mediterranean in a deal that is set to boost the countries’ role in world energy. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev attended the signing of the accord, which ended almost 15 years of negotiations on the 279-kilometer pipeline. When it is launched in 2009, the link, which could cost up to -950 million to build, will run from the Bulgarian Black Sea port of Burgas to the northern Aegean port of Alexandroupolis. «Russia’s energy potential and the geographic location of Greece and Bulgaria open up brilliant prospects of cooperation… this deal will further increase the good dialogue on the issue of energy interdependence,» Putin said. The idea for the pipeline dates to 1993, but the negotiations that followed were protracted and difficult because Greece, Bulgaria and Russia could not agree on how to divide the stakes in the ambitious project. Tankers currently make the trip across the Bosporus, which has become congested in recent years as maritime traffic has intensified. Crude oil will be shipped from the Russian port of Novorossiysk to Burgas and then piped to Alexandroupolis. From there, tankers will take the supplies to world markets. A Russian consortium of the Transneft, Rosneft and Gazprom energy companies will hold a 51 percent stake in the project. Greek and Bulgarian companies will split the remaining 49 percent. «It will also help international markets with improved access to oil at a time when energy is a fundamental global concern,» said Karamanlis. Some industry experts have been cool toward the pipeline, saying it will create dependence on a single supplier in the energy market. Others played down the possibility of Russian dominance in energy, saying such fears are exaggerated. Yesterday’s deal is also seen as signaling stronger ties between Greece and Russia. In a meeting between Karamanlis and Putin before the signing ceremony, sources said the Russian leader expressed interest in local industrial, commercial and tourism sector investments.