Leaders from the EU, the Balkans and gas supplier countries met yesterday in Sofia for a two-day gas security summit overshadowed by a last-minute boycott by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
The summit, “Natural Gas for Europe: Security and partnership,” brings together gas suppliers from the Caspian region, Central Asia and the Middle East, and transit countries and gas consumers from the Balkans and the EU.
But Putin’s last-minute decision not to attend the talks dampened the organizers’ hopes of strengthening cooperation and security of deliveries to Europe, four months after a Russia-Ukraine gas row shut European gas taps in January.
Instead, Russia’s Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko was to join the forum, also to be attended by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, US special envoy for Eurasian energy Richard Morningstar and Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa.
Bulgaria, which is almost totally dependent on Russia for its gas deliveries, was among the hardest hit by the Russia-Ukraine gas row and subsequent cut in deliveries in January.
In a move to diversify its energy sources and routes, Bulgaria declared its support for both the EU’s flagship Nabucco project to bring Caspian gas to Europe while bypassing Russia, and for the Moscow-backed South Stream pipeline pumping Russian gas to Europe under the Black Sea.
But while Brussels and Moscow have been competing to sign up gas suppliers to back their respective projects, the two pipelines have been severely sidetracked by financial difficulties.
Sofia has also stood up against a Russian plan to cut South Stream costs by using Bulgaria’s pipeline network, which channels Russian gas to neighboring Greece, Macedonia and Turkey.
It was this decision by Sofia that prompted Putin to boycott the summit, Bulgaria said.