SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) — The presidents of Bulgaria and Serbia on Wednesday launched the construction of the Bulgarian part of a gas link that is designed to diversify the energy supplies of a region that until recently was almost fully dependent on natural gas deliveries from Russia.
The 85.5 million-euro ($93.2 million) project is one of several planned gas interconnectors that would give eastern European Union members and countries hoping to join the 27-nation bloc access to the global gas market.
The 170-kilometer (106-mile) conduit, which the EU is mostly funding, will run from the Bulgarian city of Novi Iskar to Nis in southern Serbia. Plans call for an initial capacity of 1.8 billion cubic meters of gas a year with the possibility of reverse flow.
The pipeline extension is intended to bring gas from Azerbaijan through a new pipeline system that ends in Italy and to give Serbia access to ports in Greece that are importing liquefied natural gas, or LNG.
“The interconnector is an example of the successful implementation of the European strategy for affordable energy,” Bulgarian President Rumen Radev said after the symbolic start of the construction.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic thanked the European Union for helping to finance the project, which faced multiple holdups and is set to be completed in October.
“It is important not only for diversification, but also for securing the energy future of our countries and of the entire region,” Vucic said
Bulgaria is a member of the EU, and Serbia is a candidate for membership.
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