13 April, 2005
SOFIA 13/4/2005 (ANA/B Borisov)
Greece, Russia and Bulgaria signed a political agreement in the Bulgarian capital on Tuesday for construction of a cross-border oil pipeline, Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas said on Tuesday.
"This is a historic moment for ties between Russia, Bulgaria and Greece. " Sioufas told a news conference in Sofia.
The 285-kilometre pipeline to carry Russian oil from Burgas in Bulgaria to Alexandroupoli in northern Greece has an estimated investment cost of 750-800 million US dollars with an annual capacity of 35 million tones of oil. It will supplement a sea route through the Bosporus for transportation of the product in the region.
"The Burgas-Alexandroupoli pipeline will forge a new outlet for Russian oil and for oil from the Caspian Sea to Europe and America," said Sioufas after signing the pact with his Bulgarian and Russian counterparts at a ceremony attended by the neighboring country's premier.
Greek firms so far due to take part in the project are Athens-quoted Hellenic Petroleum, the Latsis oil, shipping and banking group; and the Kopelouzos energy group. Major Russian firms have shown interest in the project, including Lukoil.
Sioufas recently praised work by ministers of the three countries for their work in ending the deadlock; and efforts made by Greece's previous government.
The minister also noted that the three countries' prime ministers had urged speed in moving the project forward; and that the Greek development and foreign ministries would set up a working group to handle coordination.
Other regional energy projects on the drawing board are a link between Greek, Turkish and Italian natural gas networks; a natural gas pipeline for the western Balkans; and a combined energy market for southeastern Europe and the Black Sea.
Earlier in the day, the Bulgarian premier, Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, received a personal message from his Greek counterpart via Sioufas praising his personal contribution to moving the project along.
In Athens, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis welcomed signature of the pipeline pact.
"This is a historic agreement that has ended a 13-year deadlock. The basis has been set for construction of a project of great significance for the economy and for the energy sector, not only for the countries involved, but for the entire region," Karamanlis said in a statement.
"In addition, the project further strengthens the ties linking the peoples of the three countries, creating the conditions for further cooperation among them on a political, economic, commercial and cultural level," the premier added.
Source: Athens News Agency