April 18. 2024. 9:37

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Bulgaria using Turkish Stream pipeline as a geopolitical weapon, reveals Borissov

Sofia has introduced a special gas tax on the transmission of Russian gas through the Turkish Stream to punish Austria for its opposition to Bulgaria joining Schengen, the leader of Bulgaria’s largest party GERB Boyko Borissov announced on Wednesday (3 April).

“We have decided to punish Austria. We voted for a 20 Bulgarian Lev (10 euro) gas fee (for the transmission of Russian gas via the Turkish Stream) in parliament and nobody said a word then (about the benefits of Turkish Stream),” said Borissov, listing the benefits of the pipeline that transits Russian gas to the EU.

“And geo-strategically you see how we (Bulgaria) punish Austria and Hungary whenever we want,” the Bulgarian ex-Prime Minister added.

In October 2023, the Bulgarian parliament introduced a special tax on the transmission of Russian gas via the Turkish Stream of €10 per MWh.

This was not effectively implemented and was repealed in December, over Hungary’s threat to veto Bulgaria’s Schengen membership.

Austria continues to block Bulgaria and Romania’s full Schengen membership, with both countries joining the European border control-free zone, with only their airports and ports as recently as 31 March.

During this period, Borissov’s GERB party has ruled Bulgaria for the past nine months, in an informal coalition with the pro-EU We Continue the Change – Democratic Bulgaria (PP-DB) coalition, and the Turkish minority party DPS.

According to Borissov, stopping the Turkish Stream can only benefit Greece.

“In order to betray Bulgaria’s interests in favour of Greece, even today we can submit a proposal to stop Balkan Stream (the name Borissov uses when referring to the continuation of the Turkish Stream through Bulgaria). The taps are on Bulgarian territory,” said Borrissov.

The pipeline is a big political issue in Bulgaria, which will be the subject of a parliamentary inquiry over revelations about the Kremlin’s big role in building the facility. Borissov has been accused that during his last government (2017-2021) Bulgaria handed control of the gas project to the Kremlin.

The Turkish Stream issue is proving controversial as Bulgaria re-enters the political crisis spiral over the failure of the government rotation.

In June, Bulgarians will have to vote in the sixth parliamentary elections in three years, as well as the European Parliament elections.

“Today colleagues can table a decision to stop Balkan Stream (Turkish Stream) because the pipeline is 100% Bulgarian. We are ready for both decisions. I suggest we either stop it or sell it,” said Borissov ironically, adding that this would be a national betrayal.

The extension of the Turkish Stream gas pipeline through Bulgaria was put into operation in January 2020, after being built in less than two years2, with Russian gas flowing to Serbia, Hungary, and then from there to Austria.

Bulgaria contributed €1.3 billion for the project, half of which has already been paid back from transit fees.

From 2025, the Bulgarian route of the Turkish Stream will be the only entry point for the Russian pipeline gas to the EU, due to the expected suspension of transit through Ukraine.

At the same time, Borissov announced that huge amounts of gas currently entering Bulgaria from Greece originate from Russia.

“As of today, I claim that there is between 8 and 10 million (cubic metres of gas per day) entering Bulgaria. No matter how much the colleagues (from the PP-DB coalition) do not like it, there are only Russian (gas) molecules in our gas pipes,” said Borissov.

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