Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

Putin will not come to Sofia because Bulgaria is not ready for 'Southern Stream"

Adelina Marini, April 22, 2009

An interesting confession made the deputy prime minister and foreign minister of Bulgaria Ivaylo Kalfin at a press conference designated to the energy forum in Sofia, organised by the president Georghi Parvanov. Kalfin said that the Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin, who was almost a certain participant at the meeting, will not come to Sofia because "the Russian side related his visit with the deal on the 'Southern Stream" pipeline, which is still not ready on an expert level. Mixing together both issues was not acceptable for Bulgaria". The deputy prime minister added that "Southern Stream" still is a very important project for our country but Bulgaria insists the negotiations to remain within the framework of the intergovernmental agreement, signed last year. Bulgaria is still not ready to sign the deal as the Russian expectations might had been.

Nevertheless, the president of the European Commission Jose Manuel Durao Baroso will participate, at least in the first day of the forum, which starts on the 24th until the 25th of April. Speculations about whether he will come or not increased in the last days. From today's statement of Mr. Ivaylo Kalfin it became clear that the European Commission has been an active co-author of the final declaration of the forum. He refused to release any details but underlined that the text requires participants to approve several principles, transparency among them. Asked by euinside whether this means publication of all secretly kept until now facts in the agreements for delivery of gas, Ivaylo Kalfin said that Bulgaria has always insisted on the principle of transparency or, otherwise: "transparency of contracts conditions, prices which for the moment does not exist at all because it is considered a confidential". The foreign minister also said that Russia has approved the text of the final declaration in principle but still some things remain to be settled.

And while Sofia feverishly prepares for the big event, which as it seems will be big as organisation not in terms of participation, in Turkmenistan tomorrow starts another conference, designated to energy security. Bulgaria is also presented by the energy minister Petar Dimitrov. Indeed that forum is the reason why so many leaders will not be able to come to Sofia and will send representatives only. Mr. Kalfin obviously was prepared for such a direction of journalistic questions because he said that it has, from the very beginning, been unrealistic to expect that all leaders that are difficult to sit on one and the same table, to come to Sofia and agree on energy security. He added that it is unlikely someone to have had such illusions.

Indeed, many people had such illusions since only a month ago newspapers came out with titles like: "Putin and Hillary in Sofia for the energy forum of Parvanov". Kalfin has insured himself by saying that the idea for this forum came a year ago. The truth is that forums of the kind and on such issues are not organised on the principle ho said first but on the principle of expedience. It was not a coincidence that a lot of analysts and politicians called for restrain in organising such forums because it would give a multidirectional signal to the main players. In the end we can sit and reconcile with the fact that the government only days ago approved a budget of 2 ml. levs for the organisation of the forum against the background that the aims of the meeting are not too high - just to put a beginning of a dialogue on common principles. Whatever this means.

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