Bulgaria is in talks to seek a delay of the implementation of the ban on Russian oil imports planned by the EU so that its sole refinery, Lukoil Bulgaria, gets time to adjust to process other type of oil. If it is not granted the delay, the country could veto the EU’s decision, Ivan Manev, an MP from There Are Such People (ITN), said in an interview with public broadcaster BNT.
Bulgaria is almost completely dependent on Russia in terms of energy, although the new government led by Prime Minister Kiril Petkov is putting significant effort into quick diversification of suppliers of oil and gas.
According to Manev, who is also a member of the parliament’s energy committee, the veto is not very likely. However, the chairman of the energy committee, Radoslav Ribarski, said earlier in May that should Bulgaria not get a derogation, the country will impose the veto.
“Talks are underway. The Bulgarian government is determined to do whatever is necessary,” Ribarski said in an interview with bTV.
The country is seeking a two-year delay to the implementation of an EU-wide ban on imports of Russian oil and hopes to get an answer by the end of this week.
So far, Hungary and Slovakia are allowed not to impose the ban as they have no alternative source of supplies.
Bulgaria has already found different sources of supplies of natural gas, after Russia’s Gazprom decided to stop deliveries at the end of April. However, the country says it could hardly find a cheap substitute for the oil immediately and would need more time.
Meanwhile, President Rumen Radev, who since the start of the war has been taking rather pro-Russian positions, said on May 9 that without a compromise allowing the import of Russian oil, the the country would face a “monstrous inflation of which thousands of small and medium-sized structurally determining enterprises will not survive”.
“Bulgarians are the poorest and the poorest [in terms of] energy in Europe, we must not allow a rise of delivery prices,” Radev said.
He added that he was expecting the government to have a clear idea of the way Bulgarians live, what they want and to listen to their voices. Although once again criticising the government, Radev said now is not the appropriate time for a new general election.
The Bulgarian Oil Association claims that an embargo on Russian oil would result in a shortage of fuel in the country and in price hikes.
On the other hand, experts say that Bulgaria does not need Russian oil and that the EU embargo would not lift fuel prices.
“I hope that this “news” of a Bulgarian veto against the EC sanctions on the Russian oil are false,” Nikola Yankov, managing partner of Expat Capital and former deputy economy minister, wrote on Facebook.
“Bulgaria does not need and does not depend on Russian oil. [Lukoil] Neftochim can process any oil. It cannot work at all, if Lukoil decides to stop it. This will not cause deficit of fuels in the country, nor will lift the prices,” he wrote.
Yankov added that Bulgaria is importing a significant part of its fuels from Austria, Greece and Romania already and that the Bulgaria’s sole refinery has many times been idle due to repairs or installation of new equipment.