Borissov and Medvedev discuss bilateral relations

The Bulgarian prime minister said that the country should not give up plans to develop further its gas transmission system

Photo: BTA Boyko Borissov (R) and Dmitry Medvedev.

Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev was on a two-day official visit in Bulgaria on 4-5 March and conferred with PM Boyko Borissov and President Rumen Radev. Medvedev was in Sofia at Borissov's invitation.

One-on-one talks between Borissov and Medvedev were followed by a plenary meeting of the two delegations. The focus was on bilateral cooperation in the fields of economy, energy, welfare and tourism.

Opening the plenary meeting, Borissov said that Bulgaria should not give up plans to develop further its gas transmission system. He added that Bulgaria is seeking various sources to fill the capacity of its gas system. Borissov stressed that Bulgaria is interested in building a gas hub, which has been cleared by the EC.

Of the Belene N-plant, Borissov said that Bulgaria has two nuclear reactors and that the project will be implemented on a market principle.

Speaking at a news briefing after the meeting, Borissov voiced concern that Monday's meeting takes place at a time when the arms race is more intense than it was during the Cold War. Borissov voiced hope that common sense will prevail because a military conflict would be disastrous for the world and said that Bulgaria is willing to cooperate.

Borissov said that the Black Sea should be an area for tourism and pipelines but not for military conflict, and urged Russia to return to the negotiating table.

The Bulgarian prime minister said the two sides had discussed the launch of a ferry service between Burgas and Novorossiysk and stepping up law enforcement cooperation in connection with the large number of Russian tourists in Bulgaria. Borissov stressed the benefits of the construction of the Bulgarian extension of the TurkStream pipeline and a market solution to the Belene N-plant project. Borissov said that currently Bulgaria transits some 14-16 billion cubic metres of natural gas to Turkey, but once the TurkStream pipeline becomes operational, this country's gas transmission network will dry up. Bulgaria wants to continue to transit at least the same quantity of gas and is working to diversify its natural gas supplies, noted Borissov. He said that the tender for the construction of the Belene N-plant will be transparent and fair and stressed that the project is in Bulgaria's interest as it is not clear for how much longer coal-fired thermal power plants will continue to operate with regard to the rising prices of CO2 allowances.

For his part, PM Medvedev said that Borissov and he had laid out plans for the future and reaffirmed their desire to develop all aspects of bilateral cooperation. Medvedev placed high hopes on the Bulgarian-Russian Intergovernmental Commission for Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation, which resumed work in October 2018. Two-way trade stood at $5bn before the sanctions on Russia and has decreased to $3bn. “This loss of jobs is bad for both Bulgaria and Russia,” said Medvedev. He added that currently economic relations between Bulgaria and Russia are “complicated”, however Russia remains among Bulgaria's largest trade partners. Medvedev voiced hope that two-way trade will return to at least its 2012 level.

The Russian prime minister was adamant that the European extension of the TurkStream pipeline will be built only if there are guarantees by the European Commission that there will be no obstacles in the future.

Russia is ready to consider the possibilities for construction of the Belene N-plant, added Medvedev, underscoring that Rosatom has extensive experience in the construction of such projects in the EU.

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