Sofia Energy Roundtable

The Atlantic Council hosted the Sofia Energy Roundtable in Sofia, Bulgaria on March 1-2 in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Economy, Energy, and Tourism of Bulgaria.

The Roundtable featured important addresses by Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, EU Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov, Bulgarian Economy, Energy, Tourism Minister Trayko Traychov, U.S. Ambassador to Bulgaria John Warlick, and Ambassador Richard Burt, an Atlantic Council Board Member and former U.S. Ambassador to Germany also delivered remarks. Ministers, government officials, and business leaders from the wider Black Sea region attended.

The Bulgarian Prime Minister Mr. Borisov delivered a special policy address, stating that as an EU and NATO member state, Bulgaria is committed to being a very predictable partner sharing the values of Europe and the transatlantic community. Among priorities in the energy sector, Mr. Borisov stressed the urgent need to diversify gas supply. Regarding Nabucco, the PM pointed out that the Bulgarian Parliament has ratified the document, the government has raised financing, and construction in Bulgaria can begin right away, but is held up by problems beyond the borders of the country. “We can construct both Nabucco and South Stream”, Prime Minister Borisov said, and added that a number of other projects are also pursued with the objective of providing greater regional interconnectivity, cohesion, and energy security, inviting greater EU support for such infrastructure projects.

The decision regarding the Burgas–Alexandroupolis crude oil pipeline, on the other hand, is dependent on the outcome of an environmental impact assessment.

The case of the Belene Nuclear Power Plant continues to be a difficult one, mainly because the government that signed the contracts for the plant did not provide sufficient transparency. However, it is difficult for the government in office to revise the contracts, since according to the EU; a change in government is not a reason to walk away from commitments undertaken by the outgoing government. The way out is to seek European investors in the plant. Mr. Borisov also pointed out that if he had been in office, units 3 and 4 of the Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant would not have been decommissioned, and that procedures for constructing units 7 and 8 at Kozloduy should be looked at so that replacement capacity becomes available at the end of the life of units 5 and 6.

Commissioner Oettinger promised that he would help seek European investment to co-fund Bulgaria’s Russian-backed Belene Nuclear Power Plant, which has only Russian funding at the moment. Prime Minister Borisov stated that Bulgaria cannot afford the sunk costs of canceling the project, but that European private investment is essential if the project is to go forward. Bulgaria relies heavily on nuclear power for its energy security.

The Prime Minister reiterated that each stage of Bulgaria’s policy energy security policy would be sanctioned by the European Union, a goal Commissioner Oettinger shared in his remarks at the Roundtable.

Ambassador Warlick encouraged Bulgaria and the countries in the region to seek diversity of supply, make energy policy based on economic and energy security reasons, not political pressure, and to conduct energy policy with transparency to ensure positive outcomes for the region.

Additional panels at the conference addressed regional energy policies and priorities with energy ministers and senior officials from regional countries; natural gas diversification and interconnector projects with the private sector; a luncheon discussion on the Southern Corridor and the Black Sea region; and a closing panel on energy policy and public opinion.


3/2: Keynote Address – Bulgaria’s Energy Security Priorities – H.E. Boyko Borisov, H.E. Gunther Oettinger, Ambassador James Warlick, Ambassador Richard Burt  

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The purpose of the Sofia Energy Roundtable is to promote greater regional integration and to support multilateral public-private dialogue on global energy issues in a regional context via a unique network of policy and business decision makers. The roundtable is part of the Atlantic Council’s Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center and its Black Sea Energy and Economic Forum, and served as an important midpoint discussion between the 2009 inaugural forum in Bucharest and the 2010 Annual Forum which will convene on September 30-October 1 in Istanbul, Turkey.

The Black Sea Energy and Economic Forum fosters multilateral cooperation between stakeholders in the Atlantic Community, the Black-Sea-Caspian region and around the world on energy policy issues.  It promotes energy security, market-based solutions and an energy industry compatible with sustainable development.  The Forum strives to meet the needs of countries producing and consuming energy through increased flow of capital, technology and collaboration in the energy sector.

The 2010 Black Sea Energy and Economic Forum will be held in Istanbul, Turkey at the invitation of the Turkish Ministry of Economy and with the support of the Turkish Prime Minister’s office.