Bulgaria began construction on the natural gas pipeline with Serbia on February 1. It is expected to be finished in October. The new pipeline will allow non-Russian gas to be transported to Serbia, increasing the security of the energy supply in southeastern Europe and the Balkan region.
Presidents Radev and Vucic attended opening ceremony
In a statement, the presidency in Sofia shared information about the construction. The ceremony was attended by Bulgarian President Rumen Radev and Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic.
After Russia stopped gas supplies to Europe in the aftermath of the Ukraine war, European countries sought alternate suppliers and pursued energy cooperation more strongly.
Bulgaria – Serbia pipeline will be operational in October
The 170-kilometer pipeline between Novi Iskar in Bulgaria and Nis in Serbia is expected to be operational by October 2023, helping to diversify the country’s energy supply.
The work on the Bulgaria-Serbia Gas Interconnection on Serbian territory began. The pipeline is 65 kilometers long in the Bulgarian part.
It will have an annual capacity of up to 1.8 billion cubic meters. There is also the possibility of reverse flow.
“The gas connection with Serbia is a pledge for the future and a reflection of our countries’ will to jointly establish a vision of a common European future based on solidarity, mutual trust and support, innovative approaches, and new technology,” Rumen Radev said at the event.
Bulgaria – Serbia pipeline is subsidized by European Union
The new pipeline, primarily subsidized by European Union aid, will provide Serbia with non-Russian supplies from the Southern gas corridor and LNG facilities in Greece and Turkey.
The EU contributed EUR 27.6 million under the Connecting Europe Facility Energy program and EUR 6 million from structural funds to the Bulgarian part of the pipeline. The Commission has also provided a EUR 49.6 million grant to the Serbian section of the channel.
“This is another step towards closer communication between Serbia and the European Union. We connect in two very important areas. The first is energy security, and the second is a cleaner environment”, said Emanuele Giaufret, the Ambassador of the European Union to Serbia.
Serbia to get access to gas supplies through Southern Gas Corridor
Bulgaria will gain “expanded access to European markets, and Serbia will gain access to new sources of gas through the Southern Gas Corridor and the liquefied gas terminals in the Aegean Sea, thanks to the recently commissioned interconnector between Bulgaria and Greece, as well as our country’s agreement with Turkey for access to their liquefied gas terminals,” according to a statement from the Bulgarian presidency.
Serbia diversifies energy supplies
Serbia obtains all of its gas from Russia but has already begun negotiations with Azerbaijan to diversify its sources.
Vucic further emphasized the significance of the connectivity for the two countries and the region. “Bulgaria is a good and trustworthy friend, not only in good times but also in bad,” Vucic remarked.
Bulgaria shut off from Russian gas supplies in April and has established a new gas interconnector link with Greece. This pipeline carries 1 billion cubic meters of Azeri gas annually. Sofia has also signed a long-term capacity agreement with Turkey for LNG imports.
Significant shift for Serbia?
For Serbia it might be a significant shift in the geopolitical position, since Belgrad has been linked to Moscow, and dependent on Russian energy supplies.
Serbia remains the only EU candidate which has not adopted the EU sanctions against Russia for its war. Belgrad was harshly criticized for this. Will Serbia now change its stance to Russia and its war and gas blackmail?
Serbia needs to make a strategic choice
Vucic’s balancing policy will soon end as Brussels becomes impatient, and Belgrad may suffer consequences on its EU integration path. Soon, Serbia will have to decide, as balancing will not be possible anymore.
With energy resources secured, joining the West will be a much better choice for Vucic, rather than maintaining a solid relationship with Moscow, which is being more and more condemned in the international arena for its war in Ukraine, and more and more isolated and weaker.
Read also: Serbia is balancing between Russia and the West: which side will it take?