EU tells Bulgaria to suspend gas project

June 3, 2014

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union on Tuesday told Bulgaria to suspend preparatory work on the Russian gas pipeline South Stream, which will bypass Ukraine to bring supplies into the heart of Europe.

EU Commission spokeswoman Sabine Berger said Tuesday that work on the line should not proceed until the Bulgarian government gives clear answers on antitrust concerns over ownership. She added that "the project should be reevaluated in the light of the EU's energy security priorities."

The standoff over Ukraine has forced the 28-nation EU into a sudden rethink of its energy policies to make it less reliant on Russia and its state-owned gas giant Gazprom.

The start of the construction works in Bulgaria was initially scheduled for June, but now is likely to be delayed.

Bulgaria has one month to answer the EU concerns. Energy Minister Dragomir Stoynev said that a team of EU experts were expected in Bulgaria on June 13 to sort out remaining problems.

Stoynev said that Bulgaria "remains hostage to the conflict between Ukraine and Russia. It is unacceptable that some countries should benefit directly from Russian natural gas, while other should become hostages to this conflict," he added.

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Veselin Toshkov in Sofia contributed to this story.