site.btaUPDATED Bulgargaz Says It Has Received Questions from EC about Gas Supplies, Deals, Brussels Confirms It Is Looking into the Matter
Reacting to media inquiries about an alleged European Commission investigation into a deal Turkish operator BOTAS, Bulgarian gas supplier Bulgargaz said in a press release that it has received questions from the EU Directorate-General for Competition relating to gas supplies to Bulgaria over the past few years, and will answer those in due time. Later in the day, the European Commission confirmed that it is looking into the Bulgargaz-BOTAS deal.
“The period under review covers the past few years and the requested information concerns relations with suppliers and partners, and details about supplies,” said Bulgargaz.
It also said that it maintains “regular contacts with the EC and provides assistance on various matters within its competence”.
In Brussels, EC Spokesperson Lea Zuber said as she tool a reporter's question: "We can confirm the sending of the request for information. The European Commission is following very closely the issue and we are in touch with the relevant authorities and the relevant stakeholders. Our role is to ensure compliance with the European regulatory standards on the internal energy market. In case of indications of non-compliance, including, of course, a breach of the EU anti-trust rules, we will not hesitate to take appropriate action."
The allegations about an EC investigation into the Bulgargaz-BOTAS deal first appeared in the website of Independent Commodity Intelligence Service (icis.com) and were taken up by several Bulgarian media outlets. The story said that the EC “is investigating a deal allowing Bulgaria’s gas incumbent to access gas supplies via Turkiye amid questions over possible breaches of EU competition rules”.
ICIS says that DG Competition has asked Bulgargaz to send a comprehensive list of documents, including information related to supply agreements with BOTAS and capacity bookings on the Turkish-Bulgarian border; information on contracts that have been agreed or are negotiated where Bulgargaz may be acting as an exclusive agent or distributor for the supply of gas in Bulgaria or elsewhere in the EU.
According to ICIS, the concern is that Bulgargaz may be the only EU-based company with access to natural gas via the Turkish infrastructure and potentially acting as an intermediary for gas secured in Turkey and shipped to the region. It recalls that when the arrangement was first announced in January, the European Federation of Energy Traders voiced fears of possible competition breaches.
The Bulgargaz-BOTAS deal was signed on January 3, 2023, by a caretaker government appointed by President Rumen Radev. Valid for a period of 13 years, it gives the Bulgarian company access to Turkiye’s LNG terminals and the Turkish company access to the Bulgarian gas network and thereby to the European gas network. The Energy Minister in the incumbent Bulgarian government, Rumen Radev, has expressed the opinion that the deal should not have been signed – even less so in the last week of the caretaker government.
ICIS writes in its Thursday story that BOTAS announced new supply arrangements in recent weeks including with buyers in Hungary , Romania and Moldova, and that volumes are expected to transit through Bulgaria.