What exactly the ministers and the 24/7 crisis headquarters are doing in the energy sector is a closely guarded secret
The Cabinet, which started with panic-mongering and loud promises to control the “energy chaos and crisis”, shows frightening incompetence and secrecy. For a whole month it has been a deep secret what exactly the so-called does. crisis headquarters, which the “Donev” government decided to form on its first working day. So far, the new rulers and their emergency headquarters have not provided a single molecule of natural gas – they rely only on the work done before them. But day after day they prove that their main task is to get Bulgaria to turn back towards Gazprom. Even this does not work for them – Moscow is disdainfully silent.
After initially twisting and avoiding comment, for several days now various representatives of the service cabinet have admitted that they are making intensive attempts to contact Gazprom. But who communicates with whom is a big mystery – incl. and for members of the government.
“Negotiations are certainly underway with Gazprom, but I cannot tell you who exactly is negotiating, I am not familiar,” Economy Minister Nikola Stoyanov said on bTV on Sunday.
“We have taken action “Gazprom” to fulfill its contract. There are talks at a high level and specific talks at different levels”, Prime Minister Galab Donev pointed out a few days ago, avoiding specifics.
“We are in communication with “Gazprom” and we are trying to bring the talks to a positive conclusion of the negotiations and the resumption of supplies under favorable conditions for us”, recently explained the Minister of Energy Rosen Hristov, justifying himself that he could not share details because ” terms of confidentiality”.
“At this stage, I have no information on whether there is any progress in the negotiations with the Russian supplier,” admitted the new director of Bulgargaz, Denitsa Zlateva. Over the weekend, Zlateva blurted out that the talks were conducted at a political level. What “political level” means was not understood.
But this afternoon, the line minister announced that it was Bulgargaz that led the negotiations with Gazpromexport?! This happened in the show “Face to Face”, where Hristov again refused to give information about those participating in the “dialogue”. And pressed by the presenter’s questions, half-heartedly admitted that there was actually no dialogue, because the other party was silent.
And while the ministers are synchronously “discreet” on the subject of who is negotiating with whom and whether there is any “backward relationship” with Moscow at all, a dangerous divergence occurred on another important issue. Unexpectedly, the line minister Hristov announced that “Bulgargaz” has stopped placing requests for the supply of natural gas to “Gazpromexport” because it was seen that it was of no use. His statement caused a wave of criticism and indignation because, if true, it would greatly harm Bulgaria in the event that the dispute over the suspended supplies reaches international arbitration. Since Moscow shut off the Russian gas tap on April 27, Bulgartaz has consistently submitted applications, and the Russian side has refused to fulfill them. That was the case with the “Petkov” cabinet, and now suddenly the new energy minister claims that it made no sense. This, together with attempts at “dialogue” with Moscow, would mean that Sofia already accepts Gazprom as a correct partner. And the Minister of Economy directly “issued an indulgence” to the Russian company (it was the company that broke the contract and, after trying to unilaterally impose new payment terms, stopped supplying gas), making the following comment: “As far as I know, we stopped to pay so that they don’t supply us. Whether Gazprom is a reliable supplier – that will be judged by the specialists”. Stoyanov is a lawyer and has been a member of the government for a whole month, so it’s more than strange that he still hasn’t figured out which party is at fault.
But Prime Minister Galab Donev and the new director of “Bulgargaz” refuted Rosen Hristov – they assured that the requests continue to be released, and “Gazprom” continues with “zero” performance. It turns out that the energy minister is either off the clock or is deliberately producing fake news. In both cases, his resignation should have been on the Prime Minister’s desk by now. And it is not. On the occasion of his first month at the head of the cabinet, Galab Donev even announced that he was very satisfied with all his ministers.
Prime Minister Donev did not say whether he was satisfied with the crisis headquarters, which also completed its first month and had to overcome the “chaos” with hard round-the-clock work. There is no news from headquarters, and natural gas prices are still rising. It remains unclear who will be held responsible for the refusal of the previous government-contracted US LNG tankers. Only one was accepted, and the remaining six were dropped with flimsy excuses – the energy minister first claimed that there were no free loading slots, then switched to the “they are very expensive” version. Unlike Russian gas, the price of which is linked to European stock market quotations (and they rose to a record last month), the price of gas from American tankers depends on quotations in the USA, and they are very stable, and now Bulgaria could count on evin gas for the following months until the end of the heating season. But the official cabinet refused to listen to the experts and squandered this opportunity.
“For October, we have the total monthly quantities under the contract with the Azeri supplier, we have a whole tanker, which is provided by the American supplier, and additionally there is an auction for the remaining quantities of “Gas Hub Balkan”, where a competitive price is expected”, added Zlateva. She explained that for November it is being discussed how to structure the auctions – whether they should be monthly or for a longer period.
Meanwhile, “Bulgargaz” announced a tender for the purchase of natural gas for October. The auction is scheduled for September 12. The offers will be submitted on the platform of the Balkan Gas Hub. The electronic system of the gas exchange will automatically rank the offers at the lowest prices until the requested quantities are filled.