Speaking on national radio ahead of a two-day energy summit in Sofia, Ivaylo Kalfin, Bulgaria's foreign minister, said Moscow had tried to obtain Bulgaria's backing for the South Stream pipeline project in exchange for the participation of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in the event.
"[The Russians] had confirmed a few days ago, with all details, the participation of the Russian prime minister," Kalfin said. "But just during the Easter celebrations [held in Bulgaria and Russia on 18-20 April], they called and put the condition: if talks under the bilateral agreement, which would make possible the feasibility study for South Stream, then Putin will not come," quoted by Focus agency.
Over the last few days, Bulgarian authorities appeared to be worried that the energy forum would remain low-key, despite its "summit" title (EurActiv 21/04/09). Russia eventually decided to send its energy minister, Sergei Shmatko, to Sofia, while European Commission President José Manuel Barroso is also present at the forum.
The summit will also be attended by the heads of state of Bulgaria's neighbouring countries, the emir of Qatar and the Greek prime minister, wrote Dnevnik, EurActiv's partner publication in Bulgaria.
"Never mind," Kalfin continued. "These things should not be connected […] Such pressure is unacceptable," he stated.
The Bulgarian press has revealed that Moscow wants to use part of the existing pipeline network in Bulgaria for South Stream, while Sofia insists that a new pipe should be built for the new project. Using existing pipelines would make it impossible to reverse gas flows should the need arise, and will make Bulgaria even more dependent on Russia's supplies, experts said.
Moscow 'prefers trade secrecy'
Kalfin did not reveal details on this topic, as negotiations are still ongoing. However, he claimed that Russia had rejected the transparency agreements proposed by Bulgaria.
"We insist that, from now on, the main elements or the entire agreements be transparent, published and accessible for everyone. The Russian side, one more time, insisted that trade secrecy should apply," he said.
The energy event is expected to close with the signing of a declaration on the transparency of energy flows and gas companies' reports, unobstructed transit, and alternative supplies from the Caspian region, according to a report by Dnevnik.
The daily adds that the European Commission had thwarted Russia's attempt to squeeze the South Stream project between the key projects listed in the declaration.