Bulgaria capitals

Bulgaria will seek exemption from EU oil embargo on Russia if possible, says Deputy PM

A general view shows Lukoil company’s oil refinery in Volgograd, Russia April 22, 2022. REUTERS/REUTERS PHOTOGRAPHER

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SOFIA, May 4 (Reuters) – Bulgaria will seek a waiver from the European Union’s proposed Russian oil embargo if such waivers are allowed, Bulgaria’s deputy prime minister said in an interview with financial newspaper Capital on Wednesday.

The EU has proposed a phased oil embargo against Russia as part of a new round of sanctions against Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine.

EU officials failed to reach an agreement on the embargo on Wednesday, but they could come closer to an agreement at a meeting on Thursday, an official close to the talks told Reuters. Read more

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Bulgaria’s only oil refinery, Neftochim Burgas, owned by Russia’s LUKOIL (LKOH.MM), is the main fuel supplier in the Balkan country, the poorest in the 27-member bloc.

Deputy Prime Minister Assen Vassilev has previously said the refinery already processes 50% of Russian crude and 50% of non-Russian crude and could eventually shut off Russian oil altogether if needed.

“Technologically, Bulgaria can do without Russian crude oil, but that would drive up fuel prices significantly,” he told financial newspaper Capital in an interview published on Wednesday.

“So, if the European Commission is considering exemptions, we would like to take advantage of these exemptions because it will be in the best interests of Bulgarian consumers, Bulgarian transporters and the Bulgarian people as a whole,” he said.

The measures proposed by the European Commission include phasing out supplies of Russian crude oil within six months and refined products by the end of 2022.

Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic have already applied for such exemptions. An EU source told Reuters on Wednesday that Slovakia and Hungary could continue to buy Russian crude until the end of 2023 under existing contracts. Read more

“A strong European position ‘we stop everything for everyone’ is one thing. But if there are exemptions, we will exercise our right to use the same exception,” Vassilev said.

Last week, Russia cut gas supplies to Bulgaria, which met more than 90% of its needs with gas imports from Gazprom, because of its refusal to pay for gas in roubles, sticking to an EU position. Read more

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Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova. Editing by Jane Merriman

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