On Jan 11 morning, the Sofia-based Standart daily reported a sensation: energy analyst Belcho Tsanev told the readers that in the weeks to come, the Bulgarian authorities were planning to restart the South Stream project. He quoted Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov as saying spitefully that “now everybody will see that Erdogan is not good and that I am not bad.” According to Tsanev, Borisov was enthusiastic about the news as he expects the project to boost the Bulgarian economy and to guarantee him a happy rule in the years to come. “More specifically, this is a guarantee for him to stay in his office for six years more and then to move to a much more comfortable presidential office and also for his party to nominate its man for presidency this autumn,” Tsanev said.
The response of Russia’s Energy Ministry was neutral: “nothing has changed - the South Stream project is suspended.” So, either the Bulgarian daily is lying or the Russian ministry is not telling the whole truth.
Tsanev has worked for Standart since Jan 1998. The chief editor of the daily is Slavka Bozukova, a very experienced journalist. Until recently her deputy was well-known journalists Lubomir Mikhaylov. Once part of the team was the current spokesperson of Bulgaria’s Foreign Ministry Velislava Panova. Still writing for the daily is well-known analyst Konstantin Sybchev.
All those people have long proved their professionalism and impartiality. Besides, they would hardly dare to spread lies about Borisov as they perfectly know that the almighty Bulgarian premier can beat them to pieces should they abuse his name. So, Standart is not lying!
And what about Russia’s Energy Ministry? They said that there were no changes but they did not say that there would not be any in the weeks to come. So, they neither confirmed nor disproved Standart’s article.
The most probable source for Borisov might be his former assistant Simeon Djankov, who is now Rector of the Russian Economic School and until recently was in the Board of VTB. He is sure to know when exactly the South Stream is to be resumed, so, it would be simply tactless on his part not to tell this to his boss.
One more reason we should take Standart’s article seriously is that Tsanev has given two very weighty arguments why the project should be restarted: Turkey’s shameless attempts to push the down price of the Turkish Stream gas and its attack on the Russian Su-24, on the one hand, and the slowdown of the Chinese economy and the Power of Siberia project, on the other. According to Tsanev, in the years to come Europe will remain the key consumer of Gazprom. No surprise that Germany is so active in pushing the Nord Stream 2 project.
And so, on Mar 3, Bulgaria’s National Holiday (liberation from Ottoman rule), Putin may well visit the country - as he repeatedly did before. And this may be Bulgaria’s last chance to have the South Stream restarted.
Georgy Kolarov, specially for EADaily