Bulgaria will stop importing Russian oil next March

Bulgaria will stop importing Russian oil next March

Russia’s decades-long dominance of Bulgaria’s oil market is over, at least on paper. Sofia’s parliament agreed on Monday to bring forward the end date of the exemption the European Union granted the Balkan country at the start of the Ukrainian war to continue importing Russian crude oil to March, a measure it justified at the time. He wanted to avoid an inflationary spiral in a country where the Russian oil company Lukoil had exercised a questionable monopoly role for the past two decades. While the company has already announced that it is considering selling its holdings, accusing the government of promoting “discriminatory laws and other unfair and partial political decisions,” corruption experts in the Balkan country warn that it could end up being taken over by local oligarchs. Facilities · Relationships and prolongation of the ambiguous practices of the second most important oil company in Vladimir Putin’s country.

Through Lukoil’s local subsidiary Neftohim Burgas, the giant refinery in the vicinity of Burgas, nine oil depots and more than 200 gas stations, the Russian hydrocarbon giant has in the past two decades been able to control 100% of the domestic oil and gas market. Crude oil. This economic reality had its corresponding political translation in the condescending attitude of the various Bulgarian governments towards Moscow, either when negotiating successive sanctions packages approved by EU leaders, or when deciding on arms shipments to Ukraine.

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Measures taken by the Bulgarian authorities against Russian oil purchases have reached their peak since the summer. In July, Parliament approved the abrupt termination of the more than two-decade-old concession held by Lukoil’s Bulgarian subsidiary at the oil terminal in the port of Rozenets on the Black Sea coast, on charges relating to facilities where smuggling activities were carried out. In September, Bulgarian lawmakers agreed to gradually reduce imports of Russian crude, until they are completely eliminated by October 2024. This week, the aforementioned time frame was finally shortened to March.

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Although Lukoil’s disappearance from the Bulgarian energy market was “late”, it was “in principle” good news, according to Atanas Chobanov, a Bulgarian investigative journalist and one of the leading experts on corruption issues in the Balkan country. However, this specialist warns that the void left by the Russian oil company is likely to be filled by local oligarchs who maintain the Russian company’s murky business practices, taking into account the high degree of criminalization and corruption in the Bulgarian economy. “The move to move forward with ending the oil exemption has nothing to do with principles; it was initiated by former Prime Minister Boyko Borissov and oligarch Delyan Peevski.

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