Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

Stanishev is in Moscow but not for the exhibition

Adelina Marini, April 27, 2009

Prime minister Sergey Stanishev is in Moscow where he will discuss the energy summit in Sofia a=on the 24th and the 25th of April. This was announced by a source from the Bulgarian embassy in the Russian capital, the "Novosti" news agency reported. The officially announced purpose of the visit was the opening of an exhibition. According to the source in the embassy, during a meeting with the Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin there will be negotiations on the relations between the two countries and the summit.

The main topics in the Bulgarian-Russian energy relations at the moment are two: the participation of Bulgaria into the building of the "South Stream" pipeline and the Russian loan of 3.8 bn levs for the building of the second Bulgarian nuclear power station "Belene".

With regard to "South Stream" the differences are, on the one hand, between Russia and Bulgaria and between "Gazprom" and the Bulgarian Energy Holding on the other hand. In detail, these differences are in part because of the fact that president Parvanov appears inclined to agree with Moscow's conditions Gazprom to use the current gas grid of Bulgaria for the "South Stream" something that is in contradiction with the position of the prime minister Sergey Stanishev and the economy minister Petar Dimitrov. In the end of the energy summit in Sofia Parvanov changed his wording and with a determined tone said that Gazprom should respect Bulgaria's sovereignty. He said though that where it is possible Russia might use the current pipes.

The project for building of a second nuclear power station "Belene" is covered with a thick information fog. It is known that Bulgaria is negotiating something to get a loan from Russia for the further building of the station. Russia admits in the same time that it is not in its best financial situation right now and that is why it requires state guarantees from Bulgaria for the amount of the loan - 3.8 bn levs (1.9 bn euro). Beside this it is not very certain whether this project won't become much more expensive. In Sofia, in the first day of the summit "Natural gas for Europe - security and partnership", the Russian energy minister Sergey Shmatko confirmed that indeed there are negotiations between Russia and Bulgaria about the loan but no official request has been filed yet. He underlined that "Russia considers this project very important and we have always supported it. We anticipate our Bulgarian partners to settle there differences with their stake holders, with the strategic partner, RWE, for the future destiny of the project. We consider the possibility for financing the project for 2009 so that we secure the continuation of the building process. We expect very soon the relative Bulgarian institutions to file a request for such a financing and we will consider it. We will try to find the money so that this project continues", Shmatko said. He added that for Russia it is of utmost importance the building to continue because otherwise it will be much more expensive.

The US, on the other hand, questioned the profitability of such a project. Although not directly the newly appointed American special envoy for energy issues Richard Morning star said here in Sofia that nuclear energy if part of the equation which Europe needs to solve. The building of new nuclear power stations though takes a lot of times and that is why is not very profitable in the short term. Mr. Morningstar added omnisciently that security of nuclear stations is the most important issue.

In conclusion, the messages from the energy summit in Sofia were quite different. But how will the negotiations continue in Moscow, we will try to find out by the 28th when the visit of prime minister Stanishev will end.