Bulgaria to Ban Russian Oil Refinement Starting March 2024
Starting March 1, 2024, Bulgaria will restrain Russian oil refinement, according to the local media.
Banning the Processing of Russian Oil
On Monday, the parliament ratified the first and second draft legislation with a vote of 144 against 0. It blocks the export of Russian oil-produced fuel as of January 1, 2024.
Moreover, the law ended the processing of Russian-origin oil in the country’s sole oil refinery controlled by Lukoil, starting March 1, 2024. Bulgaria’s action discontinues the exception from the EU sanction on Russian oil imports the European Commission authorised Bulgaria last year.
To begin with, Bulgaria’s oil exoneration was recognised until December 31, 2023. It was according to the country’s particular geographic exposure.
Likewise, the parliament revoked the transit fee on Russian natural gas imports and transit through Bulgaria. The accord made Hungary block Bulgaria’s accession to the Schengen area except if the transit fee was lifted.
Bulgaria has had close historic and economic ties with Russia. For several decades, it depended almost completely on Russia for its natural supplies. However, it was interrupted during Russia’s Ukraine invasion, when it refused to pay Putin’s government in rubles for supplies.
Blocking Bulgaria’s Entry to Schengen
Hungary has expressed its rejection of Bulgaria’s entry into Schengen if it continues imposing punitive taxes on natural gas supplies for further time.
According to the Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó, Bulgaria’s move is “scandalous and hostile.” The course threatens the transport of gas bound for northern Macedonia, Hungary, and Serbia. He said that Bulgaria’s decision is completely opposed to European legislation and risks, including the discontinuation of gas supply to Hungary.
The decision on Bulgaria’s Schengen membership is slated next week. If the Bulgarians will nullify this law, Hungarians will also put out their veto, Szijjártó said.
On the other hand, Bulgarian Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov said, “Hungary has sent a formal, although low-threshold message that it will veto Schengen accession unless the gas tax is abolished. Therefore, we have decided that there is no reason to put up obstacles at the moment.”
Bulgaria disclosed on December 11 its revocation of the punitive tax for fear that Hungary would reject Sofia’s accession to Schengen. Lawmakers backed a recommendation to drop the crucial tax of 20 leva (10 euros) per megawatt hour for Russian gas which came from the TurkStream gas pipeline transported to Hungary and Serbia.
On October 13, the measure was approved to minimise the revenue of Gazprom. However, it became difficult to implement as the Russian natural gas distribution company never paid any amount for the gas it transported.