President Vladimir Putin is in Bulgaria to discuss the 10-billion-euro South Stream project, an ambitious plan to secure Russian expansion of gas deliveries to southern Europe. The scheme is Moscow’s challenge to the rival Nabucco plan to pipe Central Asian gas to the European Union and end EU dependence on Russian gas.
South Stream is joint venture between Russia’s Gazprom and Italian energy giant Eni.
The pipeline, which would carry 30 billion cubic meters of gas under the Black sea, would re-emerge on the Bulgarian coast to continue on one of two routes.
It could pass through Greece on its way to Italy, or pass through Romania, Hungary the Czech Republic and Austria before arriving in Italy.
If Sofia refuses the deal it could be a major blow for Putin. Brussels has made Nabucco central to its efforts to diversify gas supplies away from Russia after a political dispute between Moscow and Kiev in 2006 cut off exports via Ukraine.
Bulgarian officials want a majority stake in South Stream going through Bulgaria something Russia is unwilling to grant.