For years, the country of Serbia and Bulgaria depended on Russian energy until recent agreement was reached by the two countries’ ministers to make a gas interconnector that should become fully operation by 2020 to reduce said dependency.
Temenuzhka Petkova, Bulgaria’s current energy minister and Aleksandar Antic, her Serbian counterpart has recently signed a memorandum of understanding on the construction of a gas connection between the two countries in Sofia. May 2019 was the agreed start-up date for the pipeline construction so that by the end of 2020, the connection would already be in place. Petkova expressed her hopes of a continual agreement with the government of Serbia saying, “Whatever government comes to power [in Bulgaria] should unite behind gas diversification. This means security of deliveries and competitive prices,” She also noted that the engagement of different companies will be big. 45 million euros has already been allocated by Bulgaria through its ‘Innovation and Competitiveness’ operational program as explained by the Bulgarian minister. Meanwhile, Antic said that by 2018, Serbia will receive its European funding to build its part of the connection. Aiming to diversify the sources and routes of gas deliveries in Europe, the gas connection between Bulgaria and Serbia has been put as one of the seven highest priority for gas infrastructure projects in Central and Eastern Europe. 62.2 kilometers long pipeline would be built connecting the Sofia region near the town of Nova Iskar with Nis in Serbia. Upon completion, a transfer of between 1 to 1.8 billion cubic meters of natural gas from Bulgaria to Serbia and 0.15 billion cubic meters for Serbia to Bulgaria will be made possible. Srbijagas Dusan Bajatovic, director of the Serbian gas company said that Serbia might get 60 million euros from the European Commission to the construct the gas link when he gave a statement during the International Gas Conference in the Bulgarian coastal city of Varna. The president of the Bulgarian Energy and Mining Forum, Ivan Hinovski told BIRN that the joint pipeline project is an opportunity for two countries that are heavily dependent on Russian energy to diversify their gas deliveries. According to Antic, he is optimistic that the project could be completed in three to four years.