Bulgaria steps up its dependence on Russian energy
Despite its protestations that it would diversify its sources of fuel to avoid an almost complete dependence on Russian gas and oil, the incumbent Bulgarian government has approved a contract to set up a Bulgarian-Russian company to construct the Southern Stream pipeline through Bulgarian territory. No lesser a person than Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin flew to Bulgaria on a whistlestop tour for the signing ceremony. The details of the deal remain unclear, but some political parties were quick to label it a "precipitous" and "irresponsible" return to the Russian sphere of power dependence.
Seen in context, the deal is the finalisation of what President Georgi Parvanov and then President Vladimir Putin had agreed on in 2008. At the time, Parvanov had hailed the deal as a "grand slam" for Bulgaria. Many governments in the EU, however, had expressed strong reservations, as the pipeline carrying Russian gas would increase Europe's dependence on Russian energy.
Some Russian media commented that Bulgaria had finally capitulated to Russia: there will be no reduced gas prices but only new financial commitments for the Bulgarian taxpayers.
Prime Minister Boyko Borisov defended the deal, as he pronounced that Bulgaria stood to gain several billion euros from it. It was not immediately clear how and when the Russian money would start flowing into Bulgaria. Talking to the domestic media, while visiting an Orthodox monastery near Sofia, Borisov said: "The price of gas will fall. But as this is between two commercial companies, they fear that if they reduce the price of gas then everyone will go to them asking for reduced prices. This is why we decided not to disclose anything. The price of gas is falling and will continue to fall."
James Warlick, the American ambassador, commented: "I do not know what to think about the gas prices. One day I hear that they will increase, the next day I hear they will fall. What is certain is that Bulgarians pay high prices for the gas they get."
In the coldest months of 2009 Russia caused a major energy crisis in Bulgaria and some other southeast European states by stopping energy supplies over a commercial dispute with Ukraine. For a week, large parts of Bulgaria, including the capital Sofia, were left without central heating.
During his visit to Bulgaria, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov presented his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin with a two-month-old puppy by the name of Yorgo. Yorgo is a Greek name corresponding to the Bulgarian Georgi. Upon his return to Russia Putin launched a public campaign asking Russians to suggest another name for the dog. Some of the suggestions sent to the prime minister's web site included names like Yoda, Yo-Yo, Yoghurt and, of course, Boyko. The winner? Baffi.