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Bulgaria-Turkey LNG supply pact probed by EU antitrust watchdog

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A gas transit deal between Bulgaria’s state-owned firm Bulgargaz EAD and Turkey’s Botas is being investigated by the European Union amid concerns it may be anti-competitive, according to Bloomberg. 

The European Commission said Monday it’s sent requests for information to the companies and that it would “not hesitate to take appropriate action” if it finds evidence the pact breaks EU rules aimed at preventing powerful suppliers from cornering parts of the market.

Under the deal signed in January, Bulgargaz will be able to import liquefied natural gas via Turkey’s terminals and grid for 13 years. Bulgaria will be able to use a total capacity of around 1.5 billion cubic meters annually. If fulfilled, the capacity meets about half of Bulgaria’s domestic demand.

The EU’s requests for information focus on partnerships with as well as details of supplies, Bulgaria’s state-owned gas supplier said in a statement.

“The company is in regular contact with the Commission and provides assistance on various matters within its competence from time to time,” Bulgargaz said.

For years, Bulgaria depended almost entirely on Russian pipeline gas for its supplies. It was cut off last spring, after refusing to pay in rubles following Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

The deal with Botas in January secured alternative supplies to the Balkan country, but the lack of details raised doubts about its long-term viability and concerns among experts that it may be a back door for supplies from Russia.

Previously, Bulgaria’s shortest way to access to LNG was via Greece, where buyers have to compete for berthing slots under EU rules. 

Turkey, outside the EU but connected to it by pipeline, isn’t bound by those rules and has capacity to spare.