EU chief: New Greece-Bulgaria gas pipeline ‘means freedom’
Sofia, Bulgaria — The President of the European Union Executive visited Bulgaria on Saturday for the opening of a gas link between the country and Greece, underlining the EU’s determination to no longer depend on Russian imports of energy.
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, von der Leyen said.
The importance of the Greece-Bulgaria Gas Interconnector pipeline, 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 transport gas from Norwegian fields in the North Sea, 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 cut some of its gas supplies to Europe to show its opposition to EU sanctions over the war in Ukraine. Unusual leaks this week on the two Nord Stream pipelines that carry Russian gas to 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. Relations between the former Soviet bloc allies have deteriorated in recent months due to the war in Ukraine. Last month, 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 break free from our dependence on Russia. It’s a matter of political will.
The 182 kilometer (115 mile) conduit runs from the Greek town of Komotini in northeastern Greece, where it connects to the Trans-Adriatic Gas 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 on and off since the early 2000s, the Baltic Pipe was given the green light in 2016 under Poland’s current right-wing government, which wants to make the country completely independent of Russian energy sources.
The entire offshore route is approximately 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 has received financial support from the European Union.
Scislowska reported from Warsaw, Poland.
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