PMs of Bulgaria and Greece break ground on intersystem gas pipeline

The interconnector paves the way for real diversification of gas supplies

In a ceremony marking the start of construction works on an intersystem gas connection between Bulgaria and Greece, the two countries' prime ministers - Boyko Borissov and Alexis Tsipras, respectively - broke ground on the project and signed a section of the pipeline. “Over the years, we heard a lot of talk about interconnectors and diversification. Well, we quietly did some actual work and today we are launching the project,” said Borissov during the official ceremony. He added that the pipeline allows for real and complete diversification of natural gas supplies.

“Here is your lunch for today, Alexi! We have agreed to not have (celebratory) lunches and receptions until the (EP) elections are done because we are both very busy right now. Today, we are doing something historic. Thank you for being here!” said the premier, handing Tsipras the traditional bread and honey, as he welcomed him to the site. Earlier, Borissov personally picked up Tsipras from the airport in Kirkovo, where the Greek PM landed.

The two heads of government also had a one-on-one meeting to discuss cooperation between Bulgaria and Greece, as well as the energy, infrastructure and transport connectivity in the Balkan region. “We are building gas highways, you and I. Whoever provides cheapest gas, will pay and get access,” Borissov told Tsipras.

Borissov also noted that the realisation of the Bulgaria-Greece intersystem gas connection will have a key role in the region as a whole and in Europe. “The project is of strategic significance not only for our two countries but the entirety of Europe as well, including the Western Balkan countries,” Borissov said, according to the cabinet's press office.

Speaking with his Greek colleague, Borissov reminded that the governance programme of the Bulgarian cabinet includes ensuring energy security and market development as a priority, and that includes the preliminary work, the construction contract public procurement procedure and the commissioning of the Bulgaria-Greece gas interconnector in 2020. “We are checking off the tasks on our list so as to create infrastructure that would facilitate an environment of competition for gas supplies to the region,” the Bulgarian prime minister also said.

According to his Greek counterpart, the vertical corridor is the first step to a network for energy transmission that is envisioned to eventually encompass the Balkans. The ceremony was also attended by Minister of Energy Temenuzhka Petkova and her Greek counterpart Giorgos Stathakis, Minister of Finance Vladislav Goranov, Vice-PM Tomislav Donchev and the mayors of the seven municipalities in the region.

The Bulgaria-Greece gas interconnector is among the priority projects aimed at security and competitiveness of the European Union energy market. It is also extremely important from the standpoint of diversifying the sources and supplies of natural gas for Bulgaria and southeastern Europe. It will enable natural gas supply from Azerbaijan through the Trans Adriatic Pipeline. Thanks to the interconnector, Bulgaria will be able to receive supplies from the US, Qatar, Algeria, Israel and Egypt, to name but a few, via the liquefied natural gas terminal in Alexandroupolis. The pipeline follows a route starting from Komotini and connects to the Bulgarian gas network at Stara Zagora. It is 182km long, with 150km of those on Bulgarian territory, has a capacity of 3-5bn cu m, and costs a total of €220m. Preliminary estimates show that about 50,000 tonnes of steel pipes will be set along the interconnector's route.

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