PM Stanishev: "Bulgaria Is in Position to Turn into Balkan Energy Centre"

PM Stanishev:

"Bulgaria is in a position and is capable of turning into an energy center of the Balkans,"
Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev told a news conference he gave in Brussels on Thursday jointly with Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer and Party of European Socialists (PES) President Poul Nyrup Rasmussen after a traditional meeting of PES leaders ahead of the European Council meeting, the Government Information Service said.

The PM singled out the important oil and gas transit projects that are to pass through Bulgaria: Nabucco, South Stream, and Bourgas-Alexandroupolis. The European Energy Policy and the revised Lisbon Strategy will top the agenda of the EU summit later in the day, BTA reported.

The PM stressed to the Bulgarian media in Brussels that a serious debate on nuclear power has already started. "Moreover, Bulgaria has never taken the question of the closure of the Kozloduy N-Plant off the Union's agenda," he noted.

"Bulgaria will insist on a balanced approach in reaching the EU target of a 20 per cent share of renewable energy sources. This objective must reckon with the availability of national as well as pan-European resources," the PM argued. "At present, Bulgaria produces 9 per cent of its energy from renewable sources, and it has 12 years to increase this level to 20 per cent." Stanishev insisted on the need of a balance between the country's objectives and economic priorities.

Asked about the chances of the US waiving visa requirements for Bulgarians, the Prime Minister said that this country has a strong record of success in its readiness to qualify: visa refusals to Bulgarian nationals have declined dramatically, and the US side has acknowledged this.

"For the time being, Kosovo is not on the European Council agenda," Stanishev told the media. He recalled that "Bulgaria attaches prime importance to seeing a clear and good will for honoring the commitments under the Ahtisaari Plan." "Each country will decide on its own," he said, referring to the recognition of independent Kosovo.

Regarding the absorption of financing under the SAPARD Program, the PM stressed that there is a very clear action plan and noted that, on the whole, despite the imperfections, the systems and mechanisms are working.

It was announced on March 7 that the European Commission had instructed Bulgaria to suspend 81 million leva in SAPARD payments, pending the completion of an investigation into possible abuse.

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