Bulgarian lawmakers are pushing for an immediate ban on the purchase of Russian oil, despite earlier plans to wait until next year to do so. The head of the Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) party, Desislava Atanasova, confirmed that her party is preparing a motion to ban purchases of Russian oil. This decision comes after the country had been exempt from the EU-wide ban on crude purchases from Russia and was allowed to continue buying the fuel for its Neftohim refinery, which is owned by Russia’s Lukoil, until the end of 2024.
Earlier this month, lawmakers in Sofia considered a motion to ban the use of Russian crude at the Neftohim refinery. However, instead of imposing an immediate halt, they decided on a gradual reduction in its use and postponed the complete ban until October 2024. Atanasova’s GERB party plans to appeal this decision and the motion may be considered by the country’s parliament in November. If approved, Lukoil will have to stop processing Russian oil at its facility within a week.
The ‘Movement for Rights and Freedoms,’ another parliamentary faction, has already expressed support for GERB’s initiative. Finance Minister Assen Vassilev acknowledged that a decision has been made regarding the supply of Russian oil to Neftohim. However, he stated that the government will consider any new proposals submitted.
Sofia’s hesitation to impose a complete ban on Russian crude stems from concerns about the impact this action would have on the Neftohim refinery, which is responsible for a significant portion of Bulgaria’s diesel and gasoline supplies. The current approved schedule aims to give Neftohim enough time to find suitable replacements for Russian crude.
Neftohim, located in the city of Burgas on Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast, is the largest oil refinery on the Balkan Peninsula, according to Lukoil’s website.
The push for an immediate ban on Russian oil reflects Bulgaria’s desire to reduce its dependence on Russian energy sources. While the country has historically relied on Russia for its oil supplies, there has been a growing interest in diversifying energy sources. This move aligns with broader efforts within the European Union to reduce reliance on Russian energy imports.
The ban on Russian oil imports could have significant implications for Bulgaria’s energy sector. It would require Neftohim to seek alternative suppliers and adjust its operations accordingly. This could potentially impact the country’s energy security and may lead to changes in fuel prices and availability.
However, it is important to note that Bulgaria’s decision to ban Russian oil is part of a larger geopolitical landscape. Russia has been facing increasing international pressure due to its actions in Ukraine and its perceived aggression towards neighboring countries. The European Union, of which Bulgaria is a member, has been implementing various measures to reduce dependence on Russian energy sources and increase energy security.
Overall, Bulgaria’s push for an immediate ban on Russian oil demonstrates its commitment to diversifying energy sources and reducing reliance on Russia. While the decision may pose challenges for the country’s energy sector in the short term, it aligns with broader European efforts to enhance energy security. The motion to ban purchases of Russian oil will be a significant development to watch in the coming months as Bulgaria seeks to advance its energy independence.