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Ear to the Ground

EU, U.S. Sway Bulgaria to Stop Work on Russian-Backed Gas Pipeline

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Posted on Jun 8, 2014

  Bulgarian PM Plamen Oresharski. Ekhaya2000 (CC-BY-SA)

The prime minister of Bulgaria, Plamen Oresharski, has suspended work on a gas pipeline that has recently drawn scrutiny from U.S. and European Commission officials. The South Stream pipeline was designed to deliver natural gas from Bulgaria through Serbia, Hungary and Slovenia and other neighboring European nations—right, fair enough—so what gives?

The fact that the project was financed by the Russian petrol company Gazprom might have something to do with it, as the AFP reported:

The European Union on Tuesday asked Bulgaria to suspend work on the multinational pipeline project, designed to bring Russian gas to Europe while bypassing crisis-hit Ukraine.

The European Commission said the project may break EU rules. In mid-April, it had already called for the project, led by Russian gas giant Gazprom, to be scrapped as a rebuke to Moscow for its actions in Ukraine.

But the Commission, the EU’s executive, has refrained from pushing for an outright cancellation and has instead engaged in a legal showdown with Gazprom and Bulgaria over regulatory details of the project.

Adding extra oomph to the pipeline intervention operation, the U.S. Congress sent a crack team of professional persuaders, including Sens. John McCain, Ron Johnson and Christopher Murphy, to meet with Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev in Sofia on Sunday, the same day Oresharski announced the interruption. Your move, Moscow.

—Posted by Kasia Anderson

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