|Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov (R) with European Commission Vice President for Energy Union Maros Sefcovic in Sofia, February 9, 2015. On March 20, Borisov said in Brussels Sefcovic had assured him IGB would be financed with EU funds.|
By Kostis Geropoulos
March 24 2015
Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov has said that European Commission Vice President for Energy Union Maros Sefcovic had assured him that the gas Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria (IGB) would be financed with EU funds.
“I think we will be able to build the Bulgaria-Greece gas interconnector with European money. I have Sefcovic’s assurance, and that of all colleagues, that the interconnector will be financed by the European Commission,” Borisov said after a European Council meeting in Brussels, according to a Bulgaria government press release posted on its website on March 20.
The European Commission could not confirm what exactly has been said by Sefcovic, however, as regards the Central and Southeast Europe, European Commission energy spokesperson Anna-Kaisa Itkonen reminded that the High Level Group on Central and South Eastern Europe Gas Connectivity (CESEC) kicked off its work in February, and the regional sub-groups have started their work.
“The high level group’s objective is to establish regional priority infrastructure and advance its implementation. As regards Bulgaria, the Commission recognises its particular vulnerability as regards its energy security of supply. This was also what the recent stress tests have shown,” Itkonen told New Europe on March 23.
She noted that the European Commission remains committed to integrating the South Eastern European gas markets, including Bulgaria, by putting in place necessary infrastructure and implementing regional projects. However, Itkonen stressed that it is crucial that Bulgaria and other countries in the region swiftly complete projects already underway and speed up development of projects of common interest identified as being of strategic importance.
The €220-million IGB pipeline, which will be 182 kilometres long, will start in the northeastern Greek city of Komotini and end at Stara Zagora in Bulgaria. It will carry 3 billion cubic metres of natural gas annually in its initial stage and will have a maximum capacity of 5 billion cubic metres per year. It will eventually be connected to the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), carrying natural gas from the Caspian Sea to Europe through Greece.
IGB, which is scheduled to be operational by 2018, is an essential part of a vertical gas corridor connecting Bulgaria, Greece and Romania, which the three countries have committed to develop. Parallel to that, Bulgaria and Serbia have stepped up work on a gas interconnector linking the two countries.
Bulgaria is working on a number of other gas projects to ensure its gas diversification, Borisov also said in Brussels.
Peter Poptchev, a long-time Bulgarian ambassador-at-large for energy security, told New Europe on March 23 that Borissov’s statement should be read to mean that additional funds to the ones received under the Recovery Programme seem to have been “promised”, probably with the argument that by far the larger part of IGB is in Bulgaria.
He reminded that Bulgarian Minister of Energy Temenuzhka Petkova pledged to accelerate the construction of IGB, for the time being by a year and finish it in 2018. “My own preference is that this is done by 2017, not that by then there will be new gas but this interconnection is a landmark one for the three countries and the region and it should be seen as a step in building the Energy Union in the region,” Poptchev said, referring to the plans spearheaded by Sefcovic to create a single market for power and gas, based on better connections between member states.