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Boyko Borisov: "There are no sacred cows"

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Boyko Borisov: "There are no sacred cows"

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Energy is central to Bulgarian politics and the country’s prime minister is performing a difficult balancing act between east and west.

Boyko Borisov, who’s government was elected in July, hopes to benefit from the Russian gas pipeline South Stream and its European rival Nabucco without risking Bulgaria suffering from any future energy rows.

euronews spoke to him about that and the risks to the energy sector from organised crime:

euronews

“Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, welcome to euronews. Are you worried about possible energy cuts, particularly gas supplies, in the coming winter and a repeat of what your country experienced last year?”

Borisov

“It’s normal that we’re concerned because of our previous experience. I really hope that relations between Ukraine and Russia don’t worsen as happened last year. Right now, we are building up reserves in our tanks at the Chiren natural gas storage facility, where we have the amounts we need, and at the same time we are setting up a gas link to Greece. That way we can get gas if there are shortages.”

euronews

“If there were another crisis between Russia and Ukraine, could Bulgaria cope without any problems?”

Borisov

“I hope that we wouldn’t be part of that.”

euronews

“You hope, but you’re not sure?”

Borisov

“No, quite simply that will depend on how long the crisis lasts, if there is one.”

euronews

“Your country has good relations with Russia. Isn’t it a paradox that you find yourself in a similar situation to last year?”

Borisov

“It’s true it’s not normal and for this reason we believe the construction of the Nabucco gas pipeline along with the South Stream pipeline will address this problem.”

euronews

“You mentioned the two gas pipelines, Nabucco and South Stream, you know that there are splits within the EU about which of those to support. What’s your position with regard to that?”

Borisov

“In this particular case, we have a strategic position between Asia and Europe and in our electoral campaign, before coming to power, we declared that the priority project for us is Nabucco: as the European Commission is taking part in it, so we are ready to take part with 300 million euros. So there’s not a problem with Nabucco. With regard to South Stream – in talks with Prime Minister Putin I said to him that we won’t oppose this project. And, as you know, there was an agreement between the previous government and Russia on South Stream, with regard to that, we think that the two projects can be realised.”

euronews

“Given that the Russians are heavily invested in the Bulgarian energy sector, do you think Bulgaria can have the kind of independent energy policy you have just outlined if you’re supporting the two projects South Stream and Nabucco?”

Borisov

“I want to repeat that we have no problem with the two projects, Nabucco and South Stream, developing in parallel, as far as that affects energy interests …”

euronews

“But what about the Russians?”

Borisov

“I can’t speak for them.”

euronews

“OK, but surely you’ve received messages, signals from the Russians as well as from the EU …”

Borisov

“No, no messages, no declarations, we are even working on South Stream maybe a bit more, personally I asked them the question about Nabucco. They say the two projects can go ahead and they are not asking us for anything more. It is in our interest that the two projects develop. But of course Nabucco is our priority because of the European Commission.”

euronews

Is the 300 million euros Bulgaria received from the European Commission for closing down its nuclear energy output to Bulgaria central here?

Borisov

“Let’s be clear. The 300 million given to us in return for shutting down the two pressurized water reactors at Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant was not a large amount when you consider that those reactors earned between eight hundred million and one point two billion euros a year for Bulgaria (through exports of electricity). On the other hand, those two reactors had undergone safety improvements to make them completely safe and they could have operated for another 20 years. Many European countries have extended the lives of their nuclear plants and we’ve strictly followed the EU’s conditions and that is why this 300 million euros are important, but I repeat we gave up much more.”

euronews

“The European Commission is also concerned about the role played by organised crime in Bulgaria in the energy sector. What are you proposing to do about that?”

Borisov

“There were accusations against some of those in charge of the big energy companies, as well as former ministers, involving tens of millions of euros. In the energy sector we are not going to compromise. Right now there are investigations underway, some are already with the prosecutor’s office and I’m certain that there will also be high level investigations of those people running the power plants and the coal mines, the energy suppliers, but we need time for these investigations to progress. There have already been charges brought and trials which have resulted in prosecutions, including against members of the government.

euronews

“How much time have you set aside to clean things up as the European Commission has asked?”

Borisov

“We should do this every day because it’s clear that it is needs to be done and this new government can’t repeat the previous administration’s errors. Another reason for us not to let up on this process is that we are trying to ensure that Europe has confidence in us and by doing this we’ll gain that confidence.”

euronews

“Following on from my question about corruption, are there members of your government that you don’t trust?”

Borisov

“No, no, I don’t have any such fears about anybody. But there are no sacred cows.”