Statement by President von der Leyen at the inauguration of the Gas Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria

Thank you President Radev for inviting us to this very special occasion,


Prime Ministers,


Ladies and Gentlemen,

The project of the gas interconnector between Bulgaria and Greece has been on the table for over ten years. So it has been quite a while. It was launched in 2009, at a time actually when Bulgaria was hardly hit by Gazprom's decision to stop gas flows through Ukraine. It took a lot of determination to reach the goal. And we saw the video, we heard your words. Indeed, there needs to be a lot of passion behind such a project. And today, I would like to thank you, the ICGB, but I also want to thank the successive Bulgarian and Greek governments for making it happen. A lot of stamina is necessary, a lot of strategic patience. I think there were ups and downs, and you made it. And indeed, as has been said, the European Union has supported this project from the very first day, politically but also financially, with round about EUR 250 million.

I would say that today a new era for Bulgaria and for South-East Europe begins. Bulgaria used to receive 80% of its gas from Russia. That was before Russia decided to launch an atrocious war against Ukraine and an energy war against Europe. This pipeline is a game changer. It is a game changer for Bulgaria and for Europe's energy security. And it means freedom. It means freedom from dependency on Russian gas. Indeed, the interconnector could cover the entire gas consumption of Bulgaria. This is really great news in very difficult times.

Both here in Bulgaria and across Europe, people are feeling the consequences of Russia's war. But thanks to projects like this, Europe will have enough gas for the winter. We worked very hard during the last months to get there. The first step was diversification away from Russian gas towards other reliable suppliers. President Aliyev, I visited you in July for that purpose. Our friends from Norway, our friends from the United States, Algeria and many others who helped us in this critical moment. Secondly, of course, savings. Savings to the storage that we are managing together. And we should not forget a third step that is so important, that is the mid and long term, and that is massive investment in renewable energy – wind energy, solar energy, hydropower, biomass, hydrogen, you name it. Because we know that this is energy that is home-grown, produced here. It creates jobs here and it makes us independent from others. Europe has, in other words, everything it needs to break free from our dependency on Russia. It is a matter of political will.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This leads me to my second remark: We are at a critical juncture once more. The energy crisis is serious. I am deeply convinced we can handle it, we can manage it, but it is serious. And it requires from Europe a common response that allows to reduce the energy costs for families and businesses. That is the aim, we have to achieve this. We have already taken important steps here. For example, yesterday, we all agreed in the European Union to limit the exceptional profits made by some energy companies and to take these profits to support vulnerable households and businesses in a targeted manner. And more needs to be done. We all know this. But in doing so – and this is my message –, we need to protect the fundamentals of our economy, and in particular our Single Market. This is the strength of the European Union, that is where the wealth of the European Union does come from, the Single Market. Without a common European solution, we seriously risk fragmentation. So it is paramount that we preserve a level playing field for all in the European Union, in the Single Market. And it is paramount to avoid distortions of the Single Market.

So the task ahead of us is very clear. We will do more to contain the skyrocketing energy prices which are weakening our economy. And we have to do it as Europeans, together and jointly. This is what we will discuss in a few days in Prague with the European Leaders. And I am very much looking forward to this. I very much liked your motto: ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go jointly with others.' So let us stand together and shape our strong and resilient Energy Union.

Thank you very much.