Burgas-Alexandroupolis: A project of strategic importance for Bulgaria and the EU

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

''The Burgas–Alexandroupolis oil pipeline, which according to plans will be fully operational in 2014, is one of the most strategically important projects for the EU's energy policy. Its construction will lead to the creation of a new, reliable and environmentally safe route for transportation and supply of crude oil to European markets, thus strengthening European energy security'', writes Plamen Rusev, director of the Bulgarian branch of the Trans-Balkan Pipeline (TBP).

The following contrbution was provided by Plamen Rusev. 

''This oil pipeline is of geostrategic importance. It will be a major part of the oil transfer infrastructure between Russia and Europe, as the Black Sea route is becoming key for the year-on-year increase in the quantities of Russian and Caspian oil being exported to the European and international oil markets. A considerable portion of the oil will be exported to ports in Italy, France, Spain and Holland.

The implementation of the project will directly protect European energy interests by diversifying the oil supply routes. There is also direct interest on the part of the USA, Europe's main transatlantic partner, as the remaining quantities will be exported there. 

Two EU member states – Bulgaria and Greece – are involved in the implementation of the project. The involvement of EU member states in the implementation of the various stages of Burgas-Alexandroupolis will ensure the protection of the Community's interests in this major energy project.

A group of Bulgarian scientists, including Professor Boyan Mednikarov, are convinced of the advantages and benefits of the project. 'The implementation of the project will directly protect European energy interests. At the same time, it is of particular importance to Bulgaria, because the construction of the crude oil storage facilities of the Burgas–Alexandroupolis oil pipeline will contribute to fulfilling the commitments under Directive 2006/67/EC, according to which the member states must maintain supplies of oil,' the expert said.

According to Professor Nina Dyulgerova, a geopolitics expert, the construction of the oil pipeline is one of the significant factors strengthening Bulgaria's position as a leader in the energy sector in the Balkans and a major partner in the implementation of European energy policy.

Another important issue is the strategic partnership between Russia and EU member states Bulgaria and Greece. 'Similar to the other energy projects in which Bulgaria will participate, the Burgas–Alexandroupolis pipeline is supported by Europe and there is a will for its successful implementation, because Europe, regardless of the development of renewable energy sources, cannot solve its energy problems overnight,' Ms. Dyulgerova added.

The endorsement of the Burgas–Alexandroupolis oil pipeline as an European project will help strengthen environmental protection, will guarantee the application of European environmental norms and will ensure the involvement of the EU in the protection of the Black Sea region.

The EU is aware of the fact that the intensified traffic during recent years and the transformation of the Black Sea region into a transfer hub for energy resources from East to Western Europe calls for a proactive environmental policy. At the same time, it should be noted that the operation of the oil pipeline will lead to a reduction in the traffic of oil tankers, especially in risk areas, thus contributing to the improvement of the environment in the region.

The construction of the pipeline is also a challenge in terms of technology. The international company responsible for the design of the pipeline, jointly managed by Bulgaria, Greece and Russia, plans to use only the most advanced equipment for crude oil loading and unloading operations. The use of such technologies minimises and virtually eliminates the risk of any oil spills. The ground section of the pipeline will also be protected with the use of the latest technological innovations in this field.

In addition to the other benefits for Bulgaria and the EU of the project's implementation. such as transit fees, revenues from taxes and pipeline operations, creation of new jobs, etc., the most significant benefit to the newest member of the European family will be its role as a state involved in considerable traffic of oil (approx. 50m t/year). This fact may be used by the country for reconfirming its declared intentions to become an important factor in the European energy market.''

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