On Monday, in a statement Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Kiril Petkov said, while it supports economic sanctions on Russia it will seek an exception on banning Russian natural gas and oil imports.
Bulgaria, a member of the European Union as well as that of NATO, is almost completely dependent on Russian gas supplies. Its only oil refinery, owned by Russia’s LUKOIL provides more than 60% of the country’s requirement of gas.
Germany, Europe’s biggest buyer of Russian crude oil, has rejected plans to ban energy imports.
“Bulgaria would support all kinds of measures, because we are really against the war, but these two (oil and gas), maybe we would ask for an exception… We do not have current alternatives right now, we are too dependent,” said Petkov.
He went on to add, “We are fully supporting the Ukrainian people, we supported the first package of sanctions, we are even open-minded for other sanctions as well, just these two sanctions, it would be very hard for us to take as an economy and as a country”.
Bulgaria is working to diversify its natural gas supplies and is negotiations to import larger quantities of Azeri gas while examining options for liquefied natural gas supplied through Greek ports, said Petkov.
Bulgaria, which operates two 1,000 megawatt Soviet-made nuclear reactors at its Kozloduy plant, is weighing options on how to proceed with the nuclear equipment supplied for its 2,000 megawatt Belene nuclear project, said Petkov.
Bulgaria has already paid Russia for the equipment.
“The government is considering if it should use it as part of a hybrid reactor that can use U.S. or Western European fuel, or if it should sell the equipment to another country and start again with new technology not from Russia,” he said.
Petkov’s coalition government will also start purchasing 1.5 million tonnes of wheat to shore up its food supply until next year’s harvest so as to avoid risks that may potentially arise from any possible incident in Ukraine.
It however does not plan to ban any wheat exports, said Petkov. The state will also bolster its reserves of corn and sunflower seeds.
Bulgaria, which has pegged its lev currency to the euro, is sticking for the time being with its target of joining the euro zone as of January 2024. He said inflation would remain pretty much in line with that of euro zone countries.
“Bulgaria has a currency board, so in a way we are already being as though in the euro zone, nothing changes for us. We do not have a separate monetary policy… Our inflation is going to be pretty much at par with European inflation,” said Petkov.
He went on to add, “So far, we are staying with the current target date of 2024 and we hope that we would be able to meet it”.