Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov and Russia's Vladimir Putin at their meeting on September 1 2009.
Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov told his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin at a meeting on September 1 2009 that Sofia would respond to Putin’s request for clarity on Bulgaria’s stance on joint energy projects with Russia after it had studied details of contracts signed by its predecessor government.
Borissov was one of a succession of European heads of government with whom Putin held meetings on the sidelines of a ceremony in Poland commemorating the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of World War 2.
The Government headed by Borissov, which took office in July 2009, has on several occasions signalled reservations about the undertakings made by it predecessors on projects like South Stream, Bourgas-Alexandroupolis and the Belene nuclear power station project.
According to Russian media reports, Putin demanded that Borissov clarify in the shortest possible time Bulgaria’s stance on the projects.
"If for any reason, your government decides that some of the projects are not in the interests of Bulgaria, this would cause no problems in our relations. We will find other projects on which we can co-operate," Russian news agency RIA Novosti quoted Putin as telling Borissov.
Russian media, however, said that Putin was saying, in reality, that he would pull the plug on joint projects with Bulgaria if he was not satisfied with Sofia’s answers.
A statement by the Bulgarian Government after the meeting said that a Russian working group would come to Sofia to meet Bulgarian officials on the bilateral commitments on the projects made thus far.
The statement said that detailed knowledge of the contracts and the commitments represented by them would take between two and three months.
According to Russian media, Putin raised as an example the Bourgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline, intended to be 280km long and which has been under discussion for seven years. "Just say ‘no’ and it will be over," Putin said.
In contrast, Dnevnik quoted Putin as telling Borissov, Russia had taken just two years to build a pipeline system from Eastern Siberia to China, a distance of 1500km, and would soon extend it a further 2000km to the Pacific Ocean.
Borissov said that part of the complexity of the issue about the Bourgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline was environmental concerns, and there already had been two local referendums initiated by opponents of the project.
"The Bulgarian public must be persuaded that the project is beneficial for Bulgaria," Borissov said. Overall, given that his party GERB did not have a decisive majority in Parliament, it would be possible to go ahead with the various projects only if sufficient MPs could be persuaded that the projects were good for Bulgaria.
Borissov said that there were "no problems" with South Stream, but the biggest issue of concern to the Bulgarian Government was the Belene project.