SPEECHES AND STATEMENTS
Statement by President Rumen Radev about the launch of the commercial operations ceremony of the Gas Interconnector Greece – Bulgaria
Long before Shakespeare wrote his play All‘s Well, That Ends Well, we the Bulgarians, realized how true this was.
Dear President of the European Commission,
Dear Presidents and Prime Ministers,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am sure that today’s event is not just an opening ceremony. Along with the productive bilateral meetings this morning, this is a fruitful discussion designing our future.
Watching the short video, I remembered our numerous discussions with Prime Minister Mitsotakis about the strategic cooperation between our two countries, being an axis of stability and development of the region.
This axis already has its physical dimension and it is called IGB – the long-awaited Gas Interconnector between Greece and Bulgaria. It was not easy to be built at all. Several Bulgarian and Greek governments were heavily engaged with the project running through harsh terrain and many bureaucratic obstacles.
This is the place to express a sincere gratitude to the ICGB team for the persistence, to the AVAX company and their Bulgarian subcontractors for the professionalism, to the Greek and Bulgarian institutions for the support and to the European Commission for the financial support and guidance.
The interconnector is evidence of the increased technological capacity of our countries. The Greek and Bulgarian engineers succeeded to design and build a new generation of pipeline, incorporating the highest level of automation and new technologies.
IGB is already decisively changing the European energy map. Finally, we have a real flow of gas from Azerbaijan, which, in the person of President Aliyev, proved to be a reliable partner keeping the agreement with President Parvanov more than a decade ago. Finally, the Southern Gas Corridor, running from Shah Deniz through Turkiye and Greece towards Italy, has been connected to the Vertical Gas Corridor, providing new opportunities not only for Bulgaria, but also for Romania, Serbia, North Macedonia and many other countries from Central and Southern Europe.
Moreover, with the expected launch of the LNG terminal in Alexandroupolis, our region will get long-awaited opportunities for real diversification.
That’s why IGB is far more than an infrastructure project. It is a symbol of the growing potential of our region, of successful cooperation and connectivity, contributing to our sustainable development by implementing the joint EU strategy for more reliable, affordable and secure energy.
In line with this strategy, Bulgaria has been expanding the capacity of its Chiren Underground Gas Storage, providing new opportunities to our neighbours to better balance their gas networks. We have been further pressing for the implementation of the Gas Interconnector with Serbia, while maintaining active operations of the already built Interconnector with Romania, thus ensuring greater flexibility and security of supply.
I would like to thank all of you, Presidents and Prime Ministers, for being here today to demonstrate our resolve and our united response to the disrupted supply chains and volatile prices, caused by the energy crises and the Russian war in Ukraine.
The latter significantly and swiftly changed our way of thinking, our perception of what neighbourhood and solidarity mean. After the cut-off of the gas supply from Russia, Bulgaria resorted in emergency to our neighbours. We highly appreciate the support from Greece, providing access to its gas transport system, as well as from Turkiye, providing timely access to its LNG terminals.
At the same time, Bulgaria, being the biggest in the Balkans and the third largest in Europe electricity exporter, increased the energy supply and export to all our neighbours.
The success of IGB gives us hope to look far beyond gas pipes and electrical grids – they are highly needed, but not sufficient. Today the key for success lies in the joint projects, connectivity and integration in all their dimensions.
We need to start thinking together, to develop a joint vision about our common future. We need to supply energy resources together, to develop new technologies and to build new energy infrastructure together, to integrate our energy storage capacities to better balance our systems, we need to produce together the energy of the future – green hydrogen, taking advantage of favourable natural conditions in our region for renewables.
Alexandroupolis is the positive story - the LNG terminal, where Bulgaria holds 20% as a shareholder, and the new gas power plant, are regional joint ventures. We expect to enjoy the same approach for the harbour. We are ready to join in your efforts to modernize and to better use the harbours together. Following these examples, maybe the next units of the Bulgarian nuclear power plant could also be a joint endeavour, supported by a solid track record of long-years of effective and safe operations.
Moreover, the crisis pushes us to think jointly. Yesterday, I received a very important proposal - in fact I was "authorized", so to say, by the gas transmission provider companies of four countries - Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia. They asked me to submit the jointly signed letter to the President of the European Commission. They propose to transmit the additional quantities of gas from Azerbaijan along with the agreement by the President of the European Commission and President Aliyev signed in July. So, instead of waiting for the upgrade of the TAP which is costly and time-consuming, they are ready now to transport the additional quantities of gas with minor adjustments using our national and already well integrated gas transport systems. This option is much faster, cheaper, much more flexible and most importantly - secure because it is not about a single pipeline. We saw last week what could happen if you have just one pipeline. It is a network of interconnected national networks so it is much more resilient.
We should look at the geopolitical environment - it has been changing with a rapid pace and we need to look at our region from a much broader perspective. The war in Ukraine is already dramatically changing the global chains of supply. The only reliable land route from Asia and Africa to Europe is from Turkiye through Bulgaria and Greece, up to Serbia and Romania. We need to urgently enlarge and modernize our border check-points, our roads and railways.
It is time to consolidate our efforts regarding Corridor 8, connecting the Black sea with the Adriatic Sea, and the transport corridor Thessaloniki, Kavala, Alexandroupolis. Burgas, Varna and Rousse. We need to design and build new crude oil and fuel pipelines. We need to design and develop digital infrastructure to transport and process the most important commodity of the future – data and Information.
However, without new bridges across the Danube, this concept is not feasible. While the average distance between two bridges on the upper and middle reaches of the river is about 20 km, the distance between the only two bridges between Bulgaria and Romania is 300 km.
It is obvious that we are lagging behind. Along with limiting our development, these factors undermine European security and stability especially in times of crises. I am very glad and hopeful based on our conversations many times with President Klaus Iohannis and this morning with Prime Minister Ciuca with the support of the European Commission we are heading toward finally signing a binding agreement to build more bridges. It is vitally important for logistics in times of crisis.
And not to forget - keeping Bulgaria and Romania outside of Schengen is not a favour of Europe. It does not contribute to the stability and prosperity of Europe. I do believe that we fully deserve our membership 11 years after covering all the technical criteria. Ursula, Kyriakos, thank you for your support, I am sure that together we will do this final endeavour.
Finally, to summarize today’s event I would highlight that the launch of IGB is a solid demonstration of our resolve that there is no limit to success, when all of us together are highly committed to our common European future.