The Belene NPP caused once again serious public tension, while all the three powers took part in the argument. The reason: the lawsuit filed by the Russian Atomstroyexport Company against Bulgaria and worth EUR 1 bln. for penalties due to the early ceasing of the NPP’s construction. A EUR 58 mln. claim was filed as early as last year in the ICC International Court of Arbitration in Paris, but the new sum puts Bulgaria in a very perplexed situation, since it is equal to half the assets of the National Electrical Company of this country. Here are the details:
“Good friendship means good deals for both sides,” President Rossen Plevneliev commented. He pointed out that the state prepared the forthcoming visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Bulgaria. Heavy negotiations are forthcoming on both the Russian South Stream gas pipeline project and the Nabucco one, along with those for the Belene NPP. The president of Russia is expected to arrive on November 9. All the contradictions around South Stream and its crossing of the Bulgarian territory are expected to be clarified at a meeting with PM Borissov. This country’s government should take its final investment decision till mid-November, as Bulgaria will be the first country that will take part in this gas project. Russia is in a hurry, since it is essential for Moscow Sofia to agree on the project’s implementation and the construction of its marine part to kick off. New contracts on the future gas supplies are to be signed during the November meeting.
“I do hope that President Putin is unaware of the decision of Atomstroyexport and the EUR 1 bln. claim. Otherwise, the November 9 meeting won’t be pleasant at all for him,” PM Boyko Borissov commented. He underlined that Bulgaria fulfilled all its obligations, but “they made a mistake”. At the same time Mr. Borissov stated that he was ready to sign the contract for South Stream. Vice Premier Simeon Djankov even stated firmly that the claim of the Russian company would be “totally smashed”. In his words it was a typical Russian attempt for intimidation. “We have shown that we are not afraid from the Russians, nor from certain companies or energy giants,” the finance minister added.
Of course, the MPs started to blame each other, each party trying to prove that its opponents were guilty for the signing of contracts, harmful for this country’s interests and for the ceasing of the Belene NPP’s construction, along with the penalties that followed. “All frauds under this project come to the tune of EUR 760 mln. and this sum is enough for the raising of all retirement pensions by 20 percent,” Energy Minister Delian Dobrev commented. In his words, one of the major jiggery-pokeries of the previous government was the selling of an 80 percent ready unit from the site of the Belene NPP to Russia. Although its price was EUR 2 bln., Bulgaria received from Russia barely EUR 78 mln. At the same time this country ordered two new units from Moscow. Minister Dobrev commented the Paris claim with the words that “such numbers are not realistic”. Bulgaria will file a counter claim against the Russians. “We have hired the best lawyer’s company that has won many times against the Russian companies, adding that a principle agreement was available with the Russians, saying that there wouldn’t be any lawsuits.
The Belene NPP has cost to this country’s budget EUR 700 mln. since 2006, under preliminary agreement with the Russians and without an official contract signed. There is still no official information on the price of the two Russian units, planned to be installed there. Experts say that since those are not finished yet, Bulgaria will have to pay another EUR 66 mln., plus some EUR 50 mln. for what has been done under the project till now. However, the overall sum is not the demanded EUR 1 bln. In fact this is the sum that Bulgaria has to pay in the South Stream project. This money is too much for our thin budget and that is why the Bulgarian answer takes so long. At the same time Russia puts a great pressure, since the new energy policy of the EU enters in force as of the beginning of 2013 and it will restrict monopolies. If the construction activities are delayed, this may turn fatal for Russian South Stream that will penetrate the EU through Bulgaria. That is why some MPs and energy experts started to talk about dirty political games and pressure.
English version: Zhivko Stanchev