The Greece-Bulgaria natural gas interconnector pipeline was officially launched Saturday during a ceremony on Sofia. Photo courtesy of ICGB AD-Gas Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria
Oct. 1 (UPI) -- The European Union on Saturday announced the launch of a new natural gas pipeline between Greece and Bulgaria, which it says will lessen the Balkan region's dependence on Russian supplies.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen lauded the completion of the pipeline during a ceremony in Sofia, hailing the event as a milestone for regional energy diversity.
"Bulgaria used to get 80% of its gas from Russia, but that was before Russia starts a terrible war against Ukraine, an energy war against Europe," Von der Leyen said.
"This gas pipeline is a game-changer for both Bulgaria and Europe's energy security. This project means freedom from the bridge of Russian gas. The interconnector can cover the entire gas consumption of Bulgaria and this is great news in such difficult times," she added.
The $235 million pipeline will deliver 3 billion cubic meters of gas per year, connecting Bulgaria to the Southern Gas Corridor and the Trans Adriatic Pipeline and enabling alternative supplies from Azerbaijan to reach countries in southeastern and central Europe, including Moldova and Ukraine.
The IGB pipeline is 113 miles long, of which 19 miles are in Greek territory.
The new interconnector comes at a crucial time for Europe, as the continent is looking for alternative means to Russian gas, particularly before winter comes.
Azerbaijan President llham Aliyev also attended the ceremony, stating his country would also help transmit more gas to Europe in the future. In July, Azerbaijan signed a memorandum of cooperation with the European Commission to double the supply of natural gas to Europe by 2027.
"Azerbaijan is proud to initiate this corridor and bring gas to consumers through a new route and from a new source," Aliyev said. "Until now, the only source is from the Caspian Sea, but there are several other gas fields in Azerbaijan that will soon start producing and will contribute to the increase in quantities."