The real purpose of the project, as evidenced by the secret service report, was not to “diversify” Bulgaria’s gas supply but only to benefit the Russian Federation.
Photo: President Rumen Radev was aware of the inefficiency of the pipeline
Contrary to the law, the former Bulgarian authorities approved the construction of the Russian Balkan Stream gas pipeline. However, the special services warned that it did not meet Sofia’s economic interests and only aimed to reduce Russia’s dependence on gas transit through Ukraine.
According to an investigation by the independent Bulgarian media Bird.bg in 2016, after Russia refused to implement the multi-billion dollar South Stream project, then Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov advanced the idea of a Balkan Stream which would supply gas to Bulgaria and Serbia via Turkey, that is to say bypassing Ukraine.
The following year, Bulgaria’s intelligence service – the state’s National Security Agency – prepared a series of reports for the country’s top leaders – President Rumen Radev, Prime Minister Borisov and the head of the National Assembly (Parliament) Tsveta Karayancheva, who cited the risks of the “gas transmission project at the Turkish Stream facility”, as part of what the future “Balkan Stream” was supposed to be.
The real purpose of the project, as evidenced by the intelligence service report, was not to “diversify” Bulgaria’s gas supply, as the then Prime Minister put it, but only to profit to the Russian Federation, “perhaps by suspending the transfer of gas via Ukraine”, if the project is completed in time.
Another report from December 2017 indicates that even then Borisov and Radev knew that Bulgaria would not receive gas due to the Balkan Stream. He said that the Russian “Gazprom” had unilaterally changed the parameters of gas transport through Bulgarian territory, and that the entire volume would pass through Bulgaria in the direction of Serbia, Greece and Macedonia since “the domestic market volume is not provided.”
But the Bulgarian authorities, judging by public statements, did not react to this warning – on the contrary, they made efforts to ensure that the Balkan Stream was built in time, before December 2020. Borisov himself in June of the same year, publicly declared that gas would flow through the pipeline “from various sources – from the United States, from Russia, from Azerbaijan, from Qatar, from Saudi Arabia”.
In addition, the issue of the construction of a Russian gas pipeline was also raised during Rumen Radev’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in May 2018 in Sochi. After that, the Bulgarian parliament voted to allocate 2.8 billion lei to finance the Balkan Stream.
“The pipeline was entirely financed at the expense of Bulgarian taxpayers, and a huge administrative resource was invested to ensure its timely implementation, including its rapid legalization. This rush to please the Kremlin is accompanied by hundreds of violations of Bulgarian legislation, described in a detailed report of the Council of Ministers inspection, created by order of the Petkov government,” the investigation said.
In particular, new construction equipment purchased with EU funds for completely different purposes was sent to the construction of gas pipelines. Today, this case is being handled by the European Public Prosecutor’s Office. Additionally, the Bulgarian Army’s military logistics units participated in the construction of the Balkan Stream, which helped transport the pipe across the Vit River.
“At the same time, the real diversification of gas supplies through the interconnection with Greece, through which Azerbaijani gas was supposed to flow, was delayed by ruses and administrative procedures of the same GERB government, which built the south, Turkey, the Balkans, and in fact a purely Russian pipeline,” the investigators said.
Following the publication of the investigation, the Democratic Reform Party of Bulgaria said it would ask parliament to set up a commission to investigate the actions of Borisov, Radev and Karayancheva in building the pipeline.