The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, welcomed this Saturday the start of commercial operations of a Greek-Bulgarian gas pipeline as an emancipation of Europe from Russian gas.
“Today a new era begins for Bulgaria and South East Europe”Von der Leyen said at a ceremony in Sofia attended by leaders from the region.
Von der Leyen said that the new pipeline is a “synonym of freedom” and “emancipation of Russian gas”, contributing to the “energy security of Bulgaria and Europe”.
The 182-kilometer-long IGB interconnector was inaugurated in July, but only started operations today, acting Bulgarian Prime Minister Galab Donev said.
The new gas pipeline allows Bulgaria, which has not received gas from the Russian giant Gazprom since April, to diversify its sources and “be less vulnerable”.
The Balkan country, which relied heavily on Moscow for energy before the conflict in Ukraine, is now connected to the Tanap/Tap pipeline, which transports Azerbaijani gas from the Caspian Sea to Western Europe.
Bulgaria will receive 1 bcm (billion cubic meters) per year of this gas, for a total capacity of 3 bcm of the new gas pipeline.
“It will be able to cover all of Bulgaria’s gas consumption,” said the president of the European Commission.
“This is excellent news in very difficult times … Thanks to these types of projects, Europe will have enough gas for the winter,” he added.
The ceremony was attended by the presidents of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliev, of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic, of North Macedonia, Stevo Pendarovski, and of Bulgaria, Roumen Radev, as well as the Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
At a cost of 220 million euros, including 50 million euros of European funding, the Greek-Bulgarian link project was born in 2009, but its construction has suffered many delays.
The war in Ukraine, which Russia started on February 24 this year, and the energy crisis precipitated efforts to complete the project.
As part of efforts to reduce the EU’s dependence on Russian gas, von der Leyen signed a memorandum of understanding with Azerbaijan in Baku in July to double its gas imports within a few years.