Russia has obtained all the permits necessary to build its 'South Stream' gas pipeline through Turkish territorial waters, discarding Bulgaria as one of the project's transit countries, the Russian press writes.
Taner Yildiz, Turkey's economy minister, has granted all the necessary authorisations for the South Stream project to run through Turkish territory, the Russian daily Kommersant writes.
The event, which was hosted by Italian Economy Minister Claudio Scajola in Milan on Friday (19 October), eliminated Bulgaria as a transit country for the Gazprom-favoured pipeline, the daily writes. Bulgaria was also evicted from the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline project, the newspaper adds.
There was "intrigue" at the Milan meeting, Kommersant writes. Officially, Russia came to discuss its possible involvement in the Samsun-Ceihan oil pipeline project, which is designed to bring crude from a Turkish Black Sea terminal in Samsun to the Turkish Mediterranean oil terminal in Ceihan, bypassing the Bosporus. Kommersant writes that the Turkish-Italian project came under scrutiny, as until now Russia had not shown an interest in it. In such circumstances, there was not enough oil to fill the pipe, the daily explains.
In fact, Russian negotiators were not as interested in the Samsun-Ceihan pipe as they were in securing Turkey's blessing to build the South Stream pipeline through Turkish territorial waters. The move would also help bypass Ukrainian territorial waters, one of Russia's aims with South Stream.
In this context, Russia apparently suddenly became interested in Samsun-Ceihan, abandoning earlier plans to build the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline, which would bring crude from the Bulgarian port city of Burgas to the Greek port of Alexandroupolis in the Aegean.
By eliminating Bulgaria both from the gas and oil pipelines, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin gave a clear answer to new Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, who recently told him that his government "needed time" to decide on major energy projects with Russian participation. This statement, according to Kommmersant, infuriated Putin. The Russian daily adds that the result of the Milan meeting will be "good for all sides except Bulgaria".
The Burgas-Alexandrupolis pipe would be much shorter than Samsun-Ceihan, but seven years of procrastination by Bulgaria over the project was too much for Putin, the daily writes.
Dnevnik, EurActiv's partner in Bulgaria, writes that the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipe lacks popular support due to environmental concerns. Mayor of Burgas Dimitar Nikolov recently declared that "the city doesn't want the pipeline".
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev thanked his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gül for the Milan deal, the Kremlin website wrote .
Background: The Gazprom-ENI South Stream project is seen as a rival to the EU's Nabucco pipeline and its commissioning term is also nearly identical to its rival EU-favoured project.
Until now, Bulgaria was considered key to the South Steam gas pipeline project, which is planned to run from the Black Sea's Northern Caucasus shore to the Bulgarian port city of Varna.
Russia recently signed agreements with Italy, Bulgaria, Greece, Serbia and Slovenia to start building South Stream, and also announced that it would more than double its planned capacity from 31 billion cubic metres per year (bcm/y) to 63 bcm/y. Until now, Nabucco and South Stream's capacities were considered identical (30 bcm/y), making South Stream potentially more interesting.
Bulgaria's centre-right GERB party, which is built around the personality of current Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, won national elections on 5 July. The former socialist-led government was seen as more sympathetic to Moscow. Russia has had a consistent policy of eliminating countries judged as unfriendly to its pipeline projects, the most recent examples being South Steam, designed first and foremost to bypass Ukraine, and Nord Stream, which circumvents Poland and the three Baltic countries.