Russian Prime Minister Dimitry Medvedev arrived in Sofia on Monday under tight security to meet his Bulgarian colleague, Boyko Borissov, and discuss gas and nuclear energy cooperation.
“We can talk about the next phases of the [TurkStream 2 gas pipeline] project when we get certain guarantees, and I mean not from Bulgaria, but from the European Commission, that it will not stop the project,” Medvedev said about the planned extension of the Russia-Turkey gas pipeline to Europe, via Bulgaria and Serbia.
Work on the now abandoned South Stream gas pipeline was stopped in 2014 after the European Commission intervened.
Borissov noted that Bulgaria does not aim to increase its access to gas supplies but merely to maintain their current level in case Russia halts transits through Ukraine after 2020 when the existing agreement with Ukraine expires.
“Bulgaria wants to at least to maintain what it has in terms of [gas] capacity, and both Russia and our NATO partners know this,” Borissov maintained.
Medvedev added that Russia is meanwhile ready to take part in restarting the Belene nuclear plant project, another frozen energy project that Bulgaria has sought to restart in the past year, after losing over 600 million euros in an arbitration case over two Russia-made reactors in 2016.
Borissov warned that if Sofia does not complete the new power plant, it risks losing 2,000 MW of electricity production facilities.
“In 10 to 12 years, we will be forced to import electricity, while we have two nuclear reactors waiting on the Danube,” he observed.
The two Prime Ministers said Sofia and Moscow will also cooperate on policing matters.
They did not mention the investigation into the poisoning of Emilian Gebrev, a Bulgarian arms dealer, which has been linked to the same Russian secret service operative connected to the poisoning of Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, England, a year ago.
Borissov underscored his concerns about military confrontation in the Black Sea region, especially between Russia and Ukraine, and assured Medvedev of Sofia’s pacific intentions.
“We will have to maintain our Russian fighters [jets] for a few more years, until the new ones come – don’t be afraid of them,” Borissov jested, tapping Medvedev by the hand.
“Jets will come anyway, but it’s important that gas and electricity arrive,” Medvedev responded, thanking Borissov for Sofia’s “pragmatic approach” towards security.
The directors of the Russian nuclear energy company, Rossatom, and gas behemoth Gazprom joined Medvedev in Bulgaria.