A large part of the processes are only political statements, and the gap between words and deeds is wide
The assurances of the Minister of Economy that Russian oil can immediately be replaced with non-Russian oil also sound unconvincing.
We live in times in which laws are openly and with impunity violated and the political space legitimizes aggressive incompetence in defense of anti-Bulgarian interests. The current year 2023 is a kind of culmination of this process, which is most vividly and intensively manifested in the energy sphere. Apparently time is short and money is plenty.
Natural gas, oil, coal, renewable energy sources (RES) and nuclear energy have been present in Bulgaria in recent decades as sustainable elements of the energy mix to a greater or lesser extent. Each of these energy sources was subject to political pressure with a highly financial motive.
In the gas sector, the caretaker government of Galab Donev and the regular cabinet of Nikolay Denkov make decisions that are detrimental to Bulgaria. One of them is the contract signed in January of this year with the Turkish company BOTAS for a period until 2036. With it, our country undertakes to buy liquefied gas from Turkish terminals (of course at a higher price). In this way, the European energy market is opened for Turkey. It is no coincidence that Brussels has launched an investigation into this contract.
An increase in international tension was caused by Sofia with the surprising increase in the fee for the gas transit along the Balkan Stream. The proposal of Finance Minister Asen Vasilev was justified by the idea of quick profits for the state budget. The result is ridicule from Moscow and misunderstanding from Belgrade, Skopje and Budapest with a tendency towards international isolation of Bulgaria.
The game without rules continues in the oil sector as well. One can hardly come up with a better anecdote than the saga of the Lukoil Neftohim Burgas refinery. The transit of Russian oil (derogation) allowed by the European Commission only to this company in the European Union went through several decisions of the parliament and the government, mainly related to the terms of the derogation.
The next stage was a political racket by leading deputies of GERB, SDS and DPS, accompanied by a demand for millions and billions of unpaid taxes from Lukoil (according to the finance minister) to the state. It doesn’t matter that the company submitted documents for taxes paid. The task and its strict implementation are important. It is not by chance that information appeared in the public space that the attack was connected to Kiril Petkov and Asen Vasilev as the future owners of the refinery.
The economic minister’s assurances that Russian oil can immediately be replaced with non-Russian oil also sound unconvincing. Information also appeared about the closure of the refinery, which is very close to Rosenets, where the US wanted to build its naval base. That idea disappeared very quickly. For now, this is impossible given the current Montreux Agreement of 1936, regulating the regime of the Straits.
The situation in coal mining is the same. The impressive mass and prolonged strikes and protests of the miners and energy workers increased the public rhetoric of the rulers. The topic separating the two camps is BGN 3.5 billion, which the European Commission would give for the green transformation of the coal regions of Stara Zagora, Kyustendil and Pernik with a regulated period for the gradual closure of the mines. The high social price that will be paid by more than 27 thousand workers and their families is irrelevant to the rulers. Actions on the principle of “divide and rule” led to a joint declaration, which led to convenient verbiage and the absence of concrete and effective political results for miners and energy workers.
RES, which according to the EU are a guarantee for a smooth ecological transition, also brought surprises. The corruption scheme, involving the rector of the Agricultural Academy and the deputy director of a specialized institute, by which fertile lands are declared suitable for deploying RES on them, is impressive. Apparently, money doesn’t smell, and land is just a source of quick and easy profits.
However, the most impressive is the saga with the atomic energy in Bulgaria. And not by chance. In 1974, the first nuclear power plant in the Balkans began operating – Kozloduy NPP. In 1981, the Belene NPP began, which in the democratic transition became a source of money and a political club. Several times the project was terminated through parliament, then revived politically, but then again in the context of the political conjuncture with an energy flavor, it was revived. After Bulgaria was condemned by “Rosatom” to pay for the two reactors, the mythical company “Westinghouse” appeared again, with which, with the active assistance of American diplomacy, the Belene NPP was (perhaps) put to an end.
The fate of the two reactors is unclear – will we give them away, will we sell them to Ukraine, or will part of the equipment be able to be used at the Kozloduy NPP? There are many unknowns, and so is the money. Everything is now focused on the future construction of blocks 7 and 8. Apparently, Bulgaria is perceived as a fertile and convenient political entity, whose institutions quickly and without problems sign contracts for giving billions. The memory of the Bulgarian paper army of American F16 fighters and American armored personnel carriers, which have been promised to us for a long time, comes to mind. Something similar can be expected with the construction of blocks 7 and 8 of the nuclear power plant. The Prime Minister’s quick report in the public space about the guaranteed successful construction of the two blocks is impressive. It is not understood how the 7th block got a license, but legal cases continue with the owners of lands near the adjacent village of Hrlets, which will be part of the site. There is clearly a hidden lemon there that will lead to billions, but not a new nuclear reactor.
In the world we live in, competition is without rules and the right of force wins without appeal. The fact is that Romania has the Black Water NPP and is working on the u extension, and in Turkey Akkuyu NPP is under construction, which will be operational in 2024.
We lost block 3 and 4. Apparently the completion of block 7 and 8 is more than hypothetical. Belene NPP has the real possibility of being completed in 7-8 years, but Euro-Atlantic political correctness is more important than national interests.
Despite the negative picture of the Bulgarian energy sector, it should not be forgotten that a large part of the processes are only political statements, and the gap between words and deeds is large. The dynamics in the global space – also.