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Tsonev’s exact words were: “The GERB parliamentary group presented a condition that the revenues (in the 2024 budget – note ed.) should be more realistic, therefore they will be reduced by 2.4 billion, as much as the assumed planned contribution to the gas tax”. He did not give any details whether the state will not seek the money from “Gazprom” at all for the transit of gas through “Turkish Stream” to Serbia and Hungary.
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Doubts from the beginning
Already on October 23, Delyan Peevski from DPS hinted that the collection of the extraordinary fee is becoming, in practice, a mission impossible. He then announced that the way the fee was planned to be collected would bankrupt Bulgartransgaz.
“We agreed with Minister Vasilev (Asen Vasilev) that we will change the law so that the fee is collected by the Customs Agency.” But if “Transgaz” does not receive the money from “Gazprom”, the Ministry of Finance will look for it in the person of “Customs” – directly from “Gazprom” and the Russian side, so that there is no risk for the Bulgarian company”, said Peevski.
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Meanwhile, Hungary and Serbia attacked Bulgaria over the tax decision, with Budapest even asking the European Commission to punish us. The Bulgarian government continued to claim that the imposed fee does not violate any EU rules, but on the contrary – it is in line with the sanctions against Moscow for the war in Ukraine. President Rumen Radev announced that he would refer the measure to the Constitutional Court.
The decision for “Bulgartransgaz”
Yesterday, on November 16, it became clear that the fees on the transits of natural gas from Russia passing through Bulgaria will not be paid by the operators of the gas transmission network, but by the end users. This was decided by the National Assembly in the first and second reading. The proposed new texts were submitted by Radoslav Ribarski, Vasil Stefanov and Ivaylo Mirchev from “We continue the change – Democratic Bulgaria” (PP-DB).
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The problem was that the contribution had to be collected from Bulgartransgaz, which in turn had to seek the money from Gazprom. While they supported the measure, GERB and DPS also warned that problems would arise for Bulgartransgaz if the Russian company refused to pay.
Because of the new fee, the company was obliged to pay BGN 6 million per day and currently owes BGN 250 million to the state.
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The following questions immediately arose:
– Why will “Bulgartransgaz” not collect the fee for the transit of Russian natural gas – so as not to incur debt to the state budget when the Russians do not pay, or because of fears of arbitration?
– Is the legal change for Bulgartransgaz and the collection of the fee an acknowledgment that we do not expect Russia to pay the fee?
– What happens if/when Gazprom refuses to pay the fee – do we stop gas transit? Are we sure of that?
– If we stop the transit, will the recipients of gas outside Bulgaria (Serbia and Hungary for example) sue us? Do we have a contract for the transit of Russian gas to which Hungary is a party?
– Will the European Commission intervene – Hungary is a member of the EU, is there a risk of violating the EU Treaty by stopping gas transit?
More: Denkov on the tax for Russian gas: Radev protects foreign interests
Attack from Hungary, Serbia and North Macedonia
Meanwhile, the Serbian Minister of Energy Dubravka Jedovic Handanovic and the Foreign Minister of Hungary Peter Szijjártó discussed today in Belgrade the tax introduced by Bulgaria for the transit of Russian gas, “Taniug” reported, quoted by BTA. Jedovic and Szijarto have discussed the measures they can take to protect the positions of both countries.
“We will try to overcome this challenge in a conversation with the Bulgarian side,” Jedovic said after the meeting with Sijarto in Belgrade. She pointed out that an alternative export of gas from Azerbaijan will be ensured through the interconnector with Bulgaria, the construction of which will be completed in a few days. “All contractors and subcontractors are on site. We expect the gas pipeline to be operational by the end of November,” she said.
The Hungarian minister said that Bulgaria is an EU member state that endangers the energy supply. “Bulgaria’s step (the charge for the transfer of Russian gas – note ed.) is unacceptable,” he claimed, and the Serbian minister said that Belgrade supports Budapest on the issue of gas supplies.
According to the Prime Minister of North Macedonia – Dimitar Kovachevski – Bulgaria has introduced an “illegal” fee for the transportation of gas to North Macedonia, BGNES reported. He vowed to use all legal options to solve the problem. When asked “whether Serbia, North Macedonia and Hungary can act together when it comes to the gas transportation fee”, Kovacevski replied: “It is an illegally introduced tax”.
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