| SOFIA, April 24
SOFIA, April 24 Bulgaria may need more time to
respond to concessions proposed by Russian gas giant Gazprom
in an EU antitrust case, its energy minister said on
Monday, adding that while Sofia saw the concessions as positive
it would like to see them expanded.
A provisional agreement announced last month would see
Gazprom avoid a fine of up to 10 percent of its global turnover
over EU charges it abused its dominant market position and
overcharged clients in eight eastern European nations.
The deal is subject to feedback from EU states and market
players that should be sent by May 4 and could still be amended
or even abandoned.
Bulgaria, which is almost completely reliant on Russian
natural gas supplies, needs more clarity on the concessions and
will send questions to Brussels later on Monday, interim energy
minister Nikolai Pavlov told reporters.
"We see the proposals as positive but we want them to be
expanded," Pavlov said after a meeting with politicians from the
election winning GERB party which is expected to form a
coalition government in early May.
"There are quite a few ambiguities on the proposed
commitments ... If we do not get answers on time we will ask for
the deadline to be extended, because the information is not
sufficient," he said without elaborating.
Gazprom's offer would see it scrap contract terms that bar
clients from exporting its gas to other countries and tie deals
to investments in pipelines. The company would also link its
prices to benchmarks such as European gas market hub prices,
rather than oil, and allow clients to renegotiate prices every
Pavlov said he expected the Bulgarian position to be agreed
after a debate in parliament by the end of the week.
He said current contracts with Gazprom allowed Bulgaria to
export Russian gas and that Gazprom's proposal not to seek
damages from Bulgarian partners over the cancelled South Stream
gas pipeline project had been arranged back in 2012.
A source, familiar with the matter said Bulgaria would need
more details on the exact future benchmark for gas prices and
would also seek guarantees it would be a natural gas transit
country. Currently, Russia transports about 14-15 billion cubic
metres of gas per year to Greece and Turkey through Bulgaria.
"It is important to uphold the position of Bulgaria as a
transit gas centre and defend the interests of the country
through the possibility for following talks with Gazprom to
renegotiate much better conditions and much better prices for
gas supplies," said GERB party official and former energy
minister Temenuzhka Petkova.
(Editing by Mark Potter)