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Bulgarian caretaker government blocks gas connection with Greece

Workers at the construction site of the interconnected IGB gas pipeline, starting in Komotini, Greece and ending in Stara Zagora, Bulgaria, March 2022. Photo: EPA-EFE/DIMITRIS TOSIDIS.

Bulgaria’s new caretaker government has taken steps to block the gas interconnector between Greece and Bulgaria, which was soon to deliver gas from Azerbaijan, media reported.

Problems arose over certification of the project, prompting acting energy minister Rosen Hristov, who has yet to comment publicly on the matter, to block the process.

This has fueled fears that Bulgaria will somehow come back under the influence of the Russian gas giant Gazprom – the company with which Bulgaria, along with Poland, severed relations on April 27.

“Although the security of gas resources and diversification were announced as priorities by President Rumen Radev, the first action of the cabinet appointed by him turned out to be the blocking of the gas pipeline that would provide this security and diversification,” said writes journalist Ivaylo Stanchev in the newspaper. new number of Weekly Capital. “Without the interconnection, Gazprom’s return to the Bulgarian market seems even more certain,” he added.

The interconnection was planned by former Prime Minister Kiril Petkov and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis by the end of 2021, as the new coalition took power.

It was declared technically complete on July 8 but is awaiting a certificate of operability. Steps have also been taken towards agreements with American gas companies.

Since taking power August 1sthowever, the caretaker government, chosen by the president and led by his social policy adviser Gulub Donev, has launched an ambitious process of revising the agreements reached by the previous government.

Kiril Petkov, leader of “We Keep Change” and former Prime Minister, including the reformist coalition was ousted on June 22criticized Donev’s cabinet.

“Why did we take one step forward and now two steps back in the most important moment?”, petkov wrote on Facebook on Friday, saying the new government has not contacted any of its gas partners to clear up the situation.

“Bulgaria is at a decisive moment. The pattern of feudal dependency, behind-the-scenes schemes and destructive strategies that cost the country terribly dearly is ready to be attacked from all angles,” Petkov added.

President and Acting Prime Minister Donev’s assertion that a winter of deprivation is a real possibility due to mistakes made by the Petkov cabinet, was joined by parties that opposed Petkov’s coalition and had more d influence before the political stalemate began in early 2021. This shows little sign of ending.

Although only in power for a few months, the caretaker government has also been busy replacing many people in municipalities and state agencies, with Donev having appointed some 25 deputies under him.

“The last government made missteps in the field of energy and forces the interim cabinet and the next parliament to seek a way out of the situation. Turkey is one of the countries through which these crises can be resolved,” Mustafa Karadayi of the mainly ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms said on Friday.

The group contains members sanctioned under the Magnitsky Act and has often allied itself with the GERB party of ex-Prime Minister Boïko Borissov, which is considering a return to the general elections in October.

On Friday, Acting Deputy Energy Minister Elenko Bozhkov said on television that he does not necessarily see a new long-term contract with Gazprom as necessarily bad, and said that “the doors are suddenly closing , open slowly”.

On August 3, Donev announced the creation of a special team of specialists to prevent an energy crisis, which would work day and night to develop a strategy.

Some doubt it. “I went to the Ministerial Council with coffee and sandwiches because I know what it’s like to work without rest, but I didn’t find anyone there,” former Energy Minister Aleksandar Nikolov commented on Thursday. , a member of the Petkov Cabinet.

A demonstration against Radev’s caretaker government was planned in Sofia on Friday. Another demonstration, initiated by Democratic Bulgaria, a member of the recent coalition, will be organized under the slogan “Bulgaria: independent from Gazprom”.