Ursula von der Leyen: This day marks the beginning of a new era for South-Eastern Europe

Ursula von der Leyen: This day marks the beginning of a new era for South-Eastern Europe

"This day marks the beginning of a new era for Bulgaria and for South-Eastern Europe," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Saturday at the ceremony of the commercial operation of the Greece-Bulgaria Interconnector Gas Pipeline (IGB) in Sofia.

The president of the European Commission reminded that the natural gas interconnection project between Bulgaria and Greece has been on the table for over ten years. "It started in 2009, at a time, in fact, when Bulgaria was seriously affected by Gazprom's decision to stop the flow of natural gas through Ukraine. It took a lot of determination to reach the goal," she stressed, thanking the governments in Greece and Bulgaria for their contribution and determination to implement the project.

"The European Union supported the project from the very first day, both politically and financially," the president of the Commission noted, adding that the financial support amounted to 250 million euros.

Highlighting the importance of the project for Bulgaria, Ursula von der Leyen said that the Balkan country used to get 80% of its natural gas from Russia before Putin decided to start, as she pointed out, the war in Ukraine and an energy war against Europe.

"This pipeline is a game-changer for Bulgaria and for Europe's energy security" and this means not being dependent on Russian gas, she added and pointed out that this interconnecting pipeline could cover Bulgaria's entire consumption of natural gas, which she described as "great news in very difficult times."

"Both here in Bulgaria and throughout Europe people are feeling the consequences of Russia's war. But thanks to projects like this, Europe will have enough natural gas in winter," the president of the European Commission underlined.

"We worked very hard last month. The first step was to diversify away from Russian natural gas with other reliable supplies," she noted thanking the president of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, who was present at the event, and others who helped towards this direction.

She also mentioned two more important steps which were energy conservation to boost reserves and "huge investments" in renewable energy sources, stressing that we should continue to invest in wind and solar energy as well as other renewable energy sectors.

"Europe has everything it needs to disengage from its dependence on Russia. It is a matter of political will," Ursula von der Leyen stressed, pointing out that "we are once again at a critical juncture. The energy crisis is serious but we can manage it. And it requires Europe to come up with a common response that allows for lower energy costs for families and businesses."

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