Bulgaria should quickly decide what to do about the Belene nuclear power plant and decide whether to participate in the South Stream project, Russian Ambassador to the EU Vladimir Chizhov told journalists in Brussels.
The Bulgarian government's attitude vis-à-vis those projects sometimes looks "confusing", Chizhov said.
The future of the Belene plant appears uncertain and the project is heavily politicised. Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov blames his predecessor, Sergei Stanishev, for dragging his feet and not accepting earlier Russian offers to provide three billion euros in credit, instead allowing "parasite" structures to siphon the project.
Stanishev rejected the accusations, insisting that the project had been unable to advance so far because the country was waiting for the European Commission's agreement on technical parameters.
EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger recently expressed his concern over plans to construct a nuclear power plant in Belene (EurActiv 06/04/10). ''We are following this very carefully and we are quite sensitive on this project,'' he said.
The reason for his caution seems clear: Belene is set to become the first nuclear plant in the EU that is fully reliant on Russian technology.
Following the withdrawal of Germany's RWE as a strategic partner for the project, Russia offered Bulgaria a €2 billion loan to finance construction of the plant. The Bulgarian government initially accepted the offer, but after interference from Brussels it became clear that the project would only go ahead with European investment (EurActiv 03/03/10).
It was originally envisaged that the plant would be completed by 2014, but this deadline is unlikely to be met due to financing problems. According to initial calculations, its construction was estimated to cost around €4 billion, but the actual amount could in fact range between €8 and €10 billion.
So far, more than €1 billion has been invested in the plant. Prime Minister Borissov has already said that the Belene plant is ''an example of how a project should not be made,'' but he still has to decide whether the government should call a halt to construction due to lack of funding or continue with the project.
In the meantime, the Russian press reported that Gazprom, the Russian state-owned gas monopoly, is ready to exclude Bulgaria from its planned South Stream pipeline, apparently in retaliation for Sofia's decision to scrap an oil pipeline designed to circumvent the Bosphorus strait (EurActiv 17/06/10).
South Stream will avoid Ukraine by running under the Black Sea to Bulgaria, with one branch going to Greece and Italy, and another to Romania, Serbia, Hungary, Slovenia and Austria. But the offshore section of the the pipeline could be diverted to reach Romania instead of the Bulgarian port of Varna as initially planned, and a section through Romania could bypass Bulgaria, the daily Kommersant wrote.
Chizhov said he did not know whether Gazprom was planning to exclude Bulgaria from South Stream.
"South Steam includes several countries and companies. It is not just an intergovernmental problem. Business is also involved, and the sooner the participants decide what they want, the better," Chizhov was quoted as saying.
The Russian diplomat was attending a conference in the European Parliament on fighting terrorism and drug trafficking in the Black Sea region, organised by Bulgarian Socialist MEPs. Former Bulgarian Interior Minister Rumen Petkov, US, Russian and Serbian officials and representatives of the EU institutions attended the event.