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Bulgaria's government will decide this week on its investment in the construction of the South Stream pipeline, President Rosen Plevneliev has announced.
Plevneliev met on Monday with Economy Minister Delyan Dobrev over the upcoming signing of Bulgaria's contract for participation in the Russian-sponsored gas pipeline.
The South Stream pipeline is intended to transport up to 63 billion cubic meters of natural gas to central and southern Europe, diversifying Russian gas routes away from transit countries such as Ukraine. Construction will start in December 2012, and the first supplies for Europe are scheduled for December 2015.
Plevneliev's meeting with the economy minister came after the president said that the Bulgarian public did not have sufficient information about the project.
Dobrev assured Plevneliev that all necessary information on the South Stream and Bulgaria's participation in the project is contained in a file that he has presented to the Council of Ministers and the Presidency.
"What matters to me for the sake of Bulgarian citizens and consumers is the approach," Plevneliev said on Monday. "Minister Dobrev assured me that efforts are being made to reduce the price of natural gas," he added, referring to Bulgaria's natural gas supplies from its primary supplier- Russia.
Plevneliev also noted that a common EU position on South Stream is important for Bulgaria. He stressed that the South Stream is a project that diversifies the pipeline routes but does not diversify the supplier- Russia.
Dobrev announced that Slovenia's decision about its South Stream section was expected on Monday, as are the investment decisions of France and Italy on their role, making Bulgaria "the last country to sign the investment decision."
Dobrev emphasized that Bulgaria had "no financial commitments" for the construction of South Stream. "South Stream on Bulgaria's territory will be fully funded with project funding," he said.
The pipeline will go from Russia to Bulgaria via the Black Sea. In Bulgaria it will split in two – with the northern leg going through Serbia, Croatia, Hungary, and Slovenia to Austria and Northern Italy, and the southern leg going through Greece to Southern Italy.
The pipeline's core shareholders include Gazprom with 50%, Italy's Eni with 20% and Germany's Wintershall Holding and France's EDF with 15% each.
Gazprom has already established national joint ventures with companies from Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Slovenia, Greece, Hungary and Serbia to manage the onshore section of the South Stream pipeline.
Bulgaria recently committed itself to speeding up the construction of the Russian-sponsored pipeline on its territory, since on January 1, 2013, the EU will introduce new requirements for access to energy networks.
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