A new Greece-Bulgaria gas pipeline that opened on Saturday promises to reduce dependency on Russian energy in the Balkans and make Greece a hub for energy in the region.
The ceremony for the Greece-Bulgaria gas interconnector (IGB) was held in Sofia with the leaders of the two countries and the President of the European Commission attending.
The 182-kilometer pipeline is connected to the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), allowing for additional quantities of gas from Azerbaijan that arrive in Greek ports to flow to Italy and the wider Southeast Europe region.
Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis said that the gas pipeline marks Greece’s role as an energy bridge between the South and the North, the Balkans and Europe, as well as Greece’s upgrading role on the energy and geopolitical map.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen hailed the pipeline as an important contribution to limiting opportunities for Russia’s using its gas and oil reserves in order to blackmail or punish the EU.
“This pipeline changes the energy security situation for Europe,” von der Leyen said. “This project means freedom.”
Greece-Bulgaria gas pipeline is “a game changer”
Highlighting the importance of the project for Bulgaria, Ursula von der Leyen said that the Balkan country used to get eighty percent of its natural gas from Russia before Putin decided to start, as she pointed out, the war in Ukraine and an energy war against Europe.
“This pipeline is a game-changer for Bulgaria and for Europe’s energy security” and this means not being dependent on Russian gas, she added and pointed out that this interconnecting pipeline could cover Bulgaria’s entire consumption of natural gas, which she described as “great news in very difficult times.”
“Both here in Bulgaria and throughout Europe people are feeling the consequences of Russia’s war,” the President of the European Commission underlined. “But thanks to projects like this, Europe will have enough natural gas in [the] winter.”
The project, supported by the EU’s Trans-European Networks for Energy, has an initial capacity of three billion cubic meters annually in the South-North direction. The IGB has received forty-five million euros from the European Energy Programme for Recovery (EEPR) and thirty-nine million euros from structural funds under the Operational Program “Innovations and Competitiveness.”
The importance of the Gas Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria pipeline, which was completed in July, has significantly risen after Moscow decided to turn its natural gas deliveries into a political weapon.
In late April, Russia cut off gas supplies to Bulgaria after it refused Moscow’s demand to pay for the deliveries in rubles, Russia´s currency.
Relations between the two former Soviet bloc allies have tanked in recent months, and, last month, Bulgaria ordered the expulsion of seventy Russian diplomats, triggering an angry response from Moscow.