TIME FOR CHANGE

by Dimana Trankova

Bulgaria has to urgently rethink relationships with Russia, according to Georgi Angelov

When Russia stopped gas supplies at the beginning of the year, Bulgaria turned out to be not an energy but an isolated centre in the Balkans, says Georgi Angelov, senior economist with the Open Society Institute, speaking about the consequences of the crisis.

"For several years now, our country has been perceived as Russia's Trojan horse in the EU – energy policy included," he says. "Bulgaria does not support the idea of greater integration and liberalisation of the energy sector that the EU is trying to pursue."

According to Angelov, the greatest irony is that Bulgaria suffers precisely because of this lack of integration and liberalisation, especially with respect to gas supplies. He adds: "The Bulgarian government has been so reliant on ostensibly secure Russian gas supplies that it did not take even the most basic precautions against something going wrong. It should have had more diverse sources of gas supplies, more supply lines with neighbouring countries, investments in gas terminals and so on. It was only during the second week of the crisis that the government secured small supplies of gas from Greece and discussed supplies with Turkey.

What should be done to stop this happening again? In Angelov's opinion, "The government has to realise that its current policy in this sector is wrong, and to direct its efforts and investments towards constructing gas supply lines to neighbouring countries. It is time for Bulgaria to support the liberalisation and integration of the energy sector within the framework of the EU."

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