EU chief: New Greece-Bulgaria gas pipeline ‘means freedom’

Sofia, Bulgaria — Bulgaria opened a gas link with Greece on Saturday at a ceremony attended by the European Union’s chief executive, who underlined the bloc’s determination to no longer depend on Russian energy imports.

Speaking at a ceremony in Sofia, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen hailed the pipeline as an important contribution to limiting opportunities for Russia to use its gas and oil reserves to blackmail or punish the EU.

“This gas pipeline changes the energy security situation for Europe. This project is synonymous with freedom,” von der Leyen told an audience of heads of state and government from the region.

The European Commission has committed nearly 250 million euros to fund the project, she said.

The importance of the Greece-Bulgaria Gas Interconnector pipeline, which was completed in July, has risen dramatically after Moscow decided to turn its natural gas supplies into a political weapon.

A second European gas pipeline began operating on Saturday when fuel passed through the new Baltic Pipe, which was built to carry gas from Norwegian North Sea fields through Denmark and across the Baltic seabed to at a compressor station in northwestern Poland. Its full capacity should be reached next year.

Polish, Danish and Norwegian officials opened the pipeline in northern Poland on Tuesday, underscoring its role in the region’s independence from Russian natural gas.

Russia has drastically reduced some of its gas supplies to Europe to demonstrate its opposition to EU sanctions imposed during the war in Ukraine. In addition, huge methane leaks this week due to the sabotage of the two Nord Stream undersea pipelines between Russia and Germany have heightened concerns about safeguarding Europe’s energy supplies.

In late April, Russia cut off gas supplies to Bulgaria and Poland after refusing Moscow’s request to pay for deliveries in roubles, the Russian currency. In June, Bulgaria ordered the expulsion of 70 Russian diplomats, triggering an angry reaction from Moscow.

“People in Bulgaria and all over Europe are feeling the consequences of Russia’s war. But thanks to projects like this, Europe will have enough gas for the winter,” von der Leyen said. “Europe has everything it needs to free itself from our dependence on Russia. It is a question of political will. »

The 182 kilometer (115 mile) conduit runs from the Greek town of Komotini in the northeast, where it connects to the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline, to Stara Zagora in central Bulgaria. The plans foresee an initial capacity of 3 billion cubic meters of gas per year, and the prospect of a future extension to 5 billion cubic meters.

Bulgarian project executive Teodora Georgieva said the pipeline would help supply other countries in southeastern Europe.

“We have the possibility to supply gas to the Western Balkans, to ensure the supply of Moldova and Ukraine,” Georgieva said.

Planned since the early 2000s, the Baltic Pipe was given the green light in 2016 under Poland’s right-wing government, which wants to make the country fully independent of Russian energy sources.

The entire offshore route is 275 kilometers (170 miles) long. The expansion in Denmark consists of an approximately 210 kilometer (130 mile) pipeline, a new compressor station and the expansion of a receiving terminal. The project received financial support from the EU.


This story corrects the fact that 70 Russians were deported in June, not last month.


Scislowska reported from Warsaw, Poland.


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