Bulgaria’s interim energy minister said it was “inevitable” that the Balkan country would discuss resuming gas deliveries with Russia’s Gazprom GAZP.MM that were halted in April, after the government promised to secure adequate supplies for the winter.
Rossen Hristov did not say when negotiations with the Russian company will start, but said they would be needed to secure cheaper gas for the country.
“Given the demands of business and the trade unions, in reality, talks with Gazprom to renew supplies are inevitable,” Hristov told reporters.
The European Union country had been meeting more than 90% of its gas needs with Russian deliveries until April, when Gazprom cut supplies to Bulgaria over the previous government’s refusal to pay in roubles.
Its long-term contract with Gazprom expires at the end of 2022.
Hristov accused the previous government of reformist Prime Minister Kiril Petkov, which collapsed in June just six months after taking office, of damaging ties with Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.
He said he did not expect easy and quick talks. “The situation with Gazprom is not rosy at all… We would obviously would have to turn to them now. The talks will be very hard and very difficult,” he told reporters.
Hundreds of Bulgarians have held protests against the interim government since it took office on Aug. 2, worried it would work to resume Russian gas supplies and once more increase the Kremlin’s influence over the economy.
Russia’s ambassador to Bulgaria said on Sunday gas deliveries to Bulgaria could be resumed if there was a political will from Sofia, reiterating payments should be in roubles.
At present the country, which needs about 3 billion of cubic metres of gas per year, gets 1 bcm a year from Azerbaijan and buys the rest from the market.
Wholesale gas prices have jumped by about 60% to about 300 levs ($153.44) per megawatt hour in August.
Business organisations and trade unions said high gas prices were hitting industry and called on the government to seek ways to resume Russian gas imports, which would be cheaper than buying on the open market.
Sofia is starting talks with Azerbaijan this week to boost Azeri supplies and would also discuss deliveries with Turkish gas traders, Hristov said.
The interim government has decided to seal a deal with U.S. gas company Cheniere for just one cargo of liquefied natural gas for October, saying it could not secure slots at LNG terminals at affordable prices for the other six cargos secured by the previous Cabinet.