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Bulgarian natural gas market

Question écrite de M. Lars Patrick BERG - Commission européenne

Question de M. Lars Patrick BERG,

Diffusée le 8 janvier 2023

Subject: Bulgarian natural gas market

Despite various efforts by the Commission (in particular the Directorates-General for Energy and for Competition) to liberalise Central and Eastern European gas markets, there is still a lack of real competition in the Bulgarian markets for natural gas. The state-owned Bulgargaz holds a near monopolistic position. Potential competitors have little chance of entering the market under reasonable conditions.

In response to pressure from the Commission and following fines totalling EUR 77 million on Bulgargaz and Bulgartransgaz, Bulgaria introduced the Gas Release Programme in 2019. This programme intended to increase the liquidity in the market by making it compulsory for Bulgargaz to make significant amounts of gas available to third parties via auctions on the national trading platform.

However, in December the Bulgarian Parliament adopted legislation suspending the Gas Release Programme. The adoption process lacked scrutiny and transparency.

1. What is the Commission’s view on the suspension of the Gas Release Programme as of 1 January 2023?

2. Has the Commission engaged with local stakeholders regarding the decision suspend the Gas Release Programme?

3. Did the Commission engage with the relevant Bulgarian authorities when the Bulgarian Parliament’s plans to suspend the Gas Release Programme were announced, and if so what was the outcome of these contacts?

Submitted: 9.1.2023

Réponse - Commission européenne

Diffusée le 12 mars 2023

Answer given by Ms Simson on behalf of the European Commission

(13 March 2023)

The Gas Release Programme (GRP) was introduced in 2019 as a voluntary amendment by the Bulgarian government to the national Energy act.

Following the introduction of the GRP, the number of concluded transactions and traded quantities in the spot and forward market segments have been increasing on the Balkan Gas Hub, a Bulgarian gas exchange.

There has been a growing number of market participants registered on the exchange and actively operating in the Bulgarian gas market.

The Bulgarian GRP and its subsequent suspension, as acts of voluntary national legislation, are not directly regulated by EU law thus do not fall under the Commission’s competence.

Nevertheless, the Commission remains extremely vigilant that levels of competitiveness, market access and transparency meet the highest European standards across the whole South-Eastern region.

To this end, the Commission is currently exchanging information with the Bulgarian authorities and stakeholders to better understand the impact of the suspension of the GRP on the functioning of the market and consumers.

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