Bulgaria announced on Monday that it would abandon its controversial tax on Russian transit gas because it wants to improve relations with other EU countries and join the Schengen Area. To withdraw the transit fee, the country plans to amend its legislation until it finds an EU-level approach, Világgazdaság reports. However, it has since emerged that Bulgaria is not willing to change its plans because of the unlawful nature of the transit fee, but because Bulgarian-Russian negotiations on the issue may be in full swing and the country has also other interests.
The Bulgarian cabinet announced in October that it would introduce an extra tax of 20 levs ( 10.23 euros) per megawatt hour on gas transiting through the country. As earlier reported by Hungary Today, Hungary described the decision as a “hostile move” and demanded an investigation by the European Union.
FactFrom a Hungarian perspective, the postponement of the transit fee is of particular significance because the main route for most of the gas coming under the long-term Hungarian-Russian gas contract is the TurkStream pipeline through Bulgaria, and Gazprom should have paid a separate fee for this – although it did not do so and had no intention of doing so.
The measure has also been strongly criticized by Greece and North Macedonia.
The criticism from the Hungarian and Greek sides is also relevant because these two countries will also vote on Bulgaria’s entry into the Schengen Area.
Bulgaria is now postponing the introduction of increased tariffs for gas transit from Russia in order to join the Schengen Area, the Bulgarian newspaper Focus reports, citing the country’s parliamentary coalition leaders. As one of them said, the reason for not enforcing the penalty tariffs for the time being is that the controversial charge could see the country miss out on entry to the Schengen area. Another believes that the country is hoping for a “punitive” mechanism on Russian gas from the European Commission, which Bulgaria will then rush to apply.
Bulgaria is also hoping to win another deal in exchange for not collecting the transit fee, Világgazdaság points out. It wants to buy a stake in Lukoil, which the Russian parent company wants to sell after Bulgaria made its operations difficult. In recent days, there have been several official Bulgarian announcements that Bulgaria believes Lukoil in Bulgaria should be sold to a transparent, professional investor, not to an offshore company. According to market opinion, if Bulgaria could buy Lukoil’s network there, but above all its refinery in Burgas, it could even forget the energy contribution fee.
Via Világgazdaság, Featured image: Wikipedia