Serbia opens Russian-Turkish gas project portion

File photo. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (2-R), Russian President Vladimir Putin (2-L) and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic (R) and Prime Minister of Bulgaria Boyko Borissov (L) attend the opening ceremony of the Turkstream Project in Istanbul, Turkey, 8 January 2020. [Tolga Bozoglu/EPA/EFE]

Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić on Friday (1 January) opened a portion of a Russian gas project running through his country and hailed it as key for the security of its energy supply.

The 403-kilometre(250-mile) long stretch — from Zajecar in eastern Serbia to Horgos on Hungary border — is part of the larger TurkStream pipeline which supplies Russian natural gas to Turkey and central Europe.

“This morning at 6:00 am (0500 GMT) gas from Bulgaria started to flow and entered the newly-built Serbia’s pipeline.

“A big day for Serbia!” Vučić wrote on Instagram.

At a ceremony held in Gospodjinci in northern Serbia, Vučić hailed the opening of the so-called Balkan Stream pipeline as “key for Serbia’s future development” that would enable the country’s “energy stability and security”.

Russian ambassador to the Balkan nation Aleksandar Bocan-Harcenko said the pipeline would “provide energy security also for the wider region, central Europe,” the state-run RTS television quoted him as saying.

TurkStream is a landmark project of Turkey and Russia to deliver Russian gas via the Black Sea.

In July last year US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described both TurkStream and Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which is to bring Russian gas to Germany, as “Kremlin tools to expand European dependence on Russian energy supplies” that “undermine Ukraine”.

US senators move to tighten sanctions on Nord Stream 2 and Turkish Stream

US senators announced a bill on Thursday (4 June) expanding sanctions on Russia’s Nord Stream 2 and Turkish Stream natural gas pipelines and targeting the projects Washington says will boost Moscow’s economic and political influence in Germany and other European countries.

US President Donald Trump’s administration has repeatedly slammed Germany and other European nations for their reliance on energy from Russia.

In 2019 it imposed sanctions on companies involved for the two projects.

Serbia, which aspires to join the European Union, has traditionally been an ally of Russia and is heavily dependent upon Russian gas.

The Balkan section of Turk Stream was built across Bulgarian territory. Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov however shun the ceremony in Serbia. Instead, he attended the construction of the Greece-Bulgaria interconnector (IGB), expected to deliver Azeri gaz from the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP).

Bulgaria’s gas dependence on the Kremlin slowly loosens

With the implementation of the IGB (Greece-Bulgaria) interconnector, Bulgaria could reduce its dependence on imported Russian gas by 50%, but the project, declared a priority more than ten years ago, continues to be delayed. EURACTIV Bulgaria reports.

Borissov also held a telephone call with the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev. Via IGB, Bulgaria plans to import 1 billion cubic meters of Azeri gas per year (bcm/y), which amounts to one third of its annual consumption. The construction of IGB has suffered many delays, and for the time being Bulgaria is still dependent upon Russian gas at 100%.

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