Bulgaria suspends work on the gas pipeline South Stream after the visit of U.S. politicians

Bulgaria, the poorest and most Russia-friendly countries in the European Union has on Sunday unexpectedly announced that the work on the construction of Gazprom’s gas pipeline “South Stream” will be suspended. The EU and the United States have thus won a surprising victory in the energy dispute with Russia. The decision right after Bulgaria was visited by three U.S. politicians, reports the German website Telepolis.

Through the proposed pipeline – which avoids Ukraine – the Russian gas giant Gazprom wants to pump natural gas to Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Hungary, Austria and Italy. The first deliveries were supposed to get started already in 2015. Also Serbia, another transit country, announced on Monday a preliminary building stop.

The European Commission is against the project in its current form, because one and the same company (in this case Gazprom) according to EU rules cannot operate a pipeline and  at the same time have a monopoly on the supply of gas. In addition the annexation of the Crimea is considered as a reason for the delay, according to Telepolis. The Union`s Energy Commissioner Oettinger wants to make a permit depending on Russia’s future performance in Ukraine.

Until recently, the government in Sofia, which is dominated by the “Bulgarian Socialist Party”, was determined to withstand pressure from the EU and to continue the construction work.

The independent Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski announced the decision to suspend the work after a meeting with three U.S. senators, one of them John McCain, former presidential candidate for the Republicans.

According to local newspapers in Bulgaria, the three senators had declared that the Russian businessman Gennady Timchenko, who owns the building company Stroytransgaz, is included in U.S. sanctions due to the annexation of Crimea. His group manages the building works in Bulgaria.

Bulgarian companies involved in the project could also be affected by U.S. sanctions if cooperation continues, the U.S. ambassador in Sofia, Marcie Ries, told the newspaper Dnevnik.

Sources: Telepolis.de v / Jens Mattern, russland.RU – Internetzeitung