Gazprom chief Alexey Miller was in Sofia on Tuesday for talks to speed up work on the Russian gas giant's South Stream gas pipeline project, Bulgarian officials said. Miller met with Prime Minister Boyko Borisov and President Georgy Parvanov, according to their respective press offices. Details of the closed-door talks were not released, but the daily Dnevnik quoted Economy and Energy Minister Traicho Traikov as saying the reason for the unexpected visit was Gazprom's desire to speed up work on South Stream, which will pump Russian gas to Europe via Bulgaria.
Miller assured Traikov that the feasibility study on the 900-kilometre (560-mile) pipeline from Russia to southern Europe would be ready in October, Dnevnik said. According to the government's press service, Borisov and Miller also discussed the imminent signing of new contracts for the supply and transit of Russian gas via Bulgaria to the rest of the Balkans. Bulgaria, which is almost totally dependent on Russia for its gas, has long demanded direct supply contracts with Gazprom, instead of the current agreements with intermediary companies that Sofia argues make it difficult to claim compensation in case of gas cuts.
Bulgaria has also said it will seek to receive higher fees for the transit of Russian gas, but the two sides have yet to begin concrete negotiations on the two issues. In his comments to Dnevnik, Traikov said Gazprom had "shown understanding" of Bulgaria's point of view. "We said that when it comes to South Stream, we will have to see what happens with the fees in the current transit contracts. The current transit fees are very low, some of the lowest in Europe," Traikov said.
Bulgaria is almost totally dependent on Russia for its gas consumption of about 3.0 billion cubic metres a year and transfers an additional 17 billion cubic metres to neighbouring Turkey, Greece and Macedonia.