Clive Leviev-Sawyer of the Sofia Globe
The development of natural gas interconnectors in the region was on the agenda at a meeting of the prime ministers of Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia in the Bulgarian Danube city of Rousse on March 7.
In recent days, it emerged that the pipeline connecting Bulgaria and Romania would not be launched before April this year.
The explanation offered was that high water levels and rocky conditions were delaying construction of the underwater section. This is the latest delay in the project, which was inaugurated in August 2012 and had a May 2013 deadline for completion, local media reports said.
Estimates are that the gas interconnector between Bulgaria and Serbia should be ready in two years.
Regional gas connections have been an issue again brought to the fore as government officials and commentators consider the possible implications for regional energy supply from the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
The talks in Rousse between Plamen Oresharski, Victor Ponta and Ivica Dacic were scheduled to precede a joint meeting of the governments of Bulgaria and Romania. It was expected that a number of bilateral documents would be signed at that meeting.
At the trilateral talks among the prime ministers, there was a brief discussion of the crisis in Ukraine and its impact on the entire region.
Oresharski told reporters he hoped that through a “more complete” dialogue between Kyiv and Moscow, there would be a quick solution to the crisis, averting negative long-term effects.
As was expected, Bulgaria and Romania affirmed their support for Serbia joining the European Union as soon as possible.
Both Bulgaria and Romania wanted all the countries of the Western Balkans, in particular Serbia, to become EU members as soon as possible and for EU instruments to be used to deepen co-operation, Oresharski said.
The heads of government meeting also discussed possibilities offered by the Danube Strategy for joint projects with a view to accelerating development.
Oresharski, appointed in May 2013 to sit in the prime minister’s chair in the Bulgarian Socialist Party cabinet, did not meet a group of protesters who sought him out during his visit to Rousse. They came not, as so many anti-government protesters have done in the past more than eight months, to demand his resignation, but because as residents of part of the city they were unhappy about sanitation arrangements which threatened their homes.
For more than a week, the protesters have been blocking the Rousse-Sofia road in protest, expressing concerns that their homes might collapse because of the state of the septic tanks. But given his engagements with Ponta and Dacic, Oresharski was not available to meet the protesters, who instead booed and chanted outside the hotel where the gathering was held.