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Bulgarian Parliament Ratifies Nabucco Gas Pipeline Project

Bulgarian parliament Wednesday unanimously ratified an agreement to take part in Nabucco natural-gas pipeline project that will reduce Western dependency on Russia for the most-wanted fuel.

In July 2009, Four EU countries -- Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Austria -- and Turkey signed an agreement to implement the Nabucco pipeline, the EU's flagship project for the development of the so-called Southern Corridor fuel supply route that could contribute to the EU's energy diversification plans.

The U.S.-backed project proposes to bring gas from energy-rich Central Asia and the Middle East to Europe through Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Austria, bypassing Russia and the Ukraine.

The 3,300 kilometer pipeline that runs up to a key gas terminal in Baumgarten, Austria, involves an investment of $10.9 billion.

It would increase the importance of Turkey as a transit country to the European Union, and is preferred an alternative to the Ukraine, which currently transits Russian gas to European customers.

Russia halted all gas shipments to Europe via Ukraine in January over a pricing dispute. The steep drop in gas supplies caused fuel crisis in European countries at the height of winter.

However, questions on who will supply the gas have not yet been resolved. Azerbaijan is seen as the primary potential provider of gas for the supply lines, with Turkmenistan, Iraq and Egypt also mentioned for the long term.

Last month, the European Union signed a strategic energy partnership with Iraq which estimates that it can supply 15 billion cubic meters of gas to Europe through Nabucco pipeline.

The Nabucco consortium expects the ambitious project to be completed as early as 2014.

The project is in direct competition with Russia's South Stream project, which proposes to pump 63 billion cubic meters of Central Asian and Russian gas to the Balkans and on to other European countries across the Black Sea.

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