SOFIA: Bulgaria will not support European Union's new set of sanctions against Russia if the Balkan country does not get a derogation from the proposed ban on buying Russian oil, Deputy Prime Minister Assen Vassilev said late on Sunday (May 8).
European Union governments moved closer on Sunday to agreeing to tough sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, but scheduled more talks for Monday to work out how to ensure countries most dependent on Russian energy can cope.
"The talks will continue tomorrow, on Tuesday too, a meeting of the leaders may be needed to conclude them. Our position is very clear. If there be a derogation for some of the countries, we want to get a derogation too," Vassilev told national BNT television.
"If not, we will not support the sanctions. But I do not expect to get to that, based on the talks at the moment," he said.
Landlocked Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, which all depend heavily on Russian crude delivered via Soviet-era pipelines face a challenge to secure alternative sources and have asked for a derogation from the ban. Bulgaria has also requested a derogation.
The European Commission proposed changes on Friday to its initial planned embargo on Russian oil to give the three countries more time to shift their energy supplies, while Bulgaria was not offered concessions, EU sources said.
Vassilev said Bulgaria also needs to get a derogation, as its only refinery at the Black Sea port of Burgas needed time to upgrade its de-sulphurisation facilities necessary to switch to processing only non-Russian crude.
Neftochim Burgas refinery, owned by Russia's LUKOIL, is the dominant fuel provider in the Balkan country, the poorest in the 27-member bloc. At present, half of the oil it processes comes from Russia.
Lack of an exemption would either pose serious environmental risks to the region of Burgas or force the oil refinery to decrease processing, which would create a deficit and further increase fuel prices, he said.