Bulgaria says it will veto EU oil sanctions on Russia if it doesn’t get a waiver

Bulgaria will not support the European Union’s new set of sanctions against Russia if the Balkan country does not obtain a waiver of the proposed ban on buying Russian oil, Deputy Prime Minister Assen Vassilev said late on Sunday.

European Union governments came close on Sunday to agreeing tough sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, but scheduled more talks for Monday to figure out how to ensure countries most dependent on Russian energy can deal with it.

“The talks will continue tomorrow, also on Tuesday, a meeting of the leaders may be necessary to conclude them. Our position is very clear. If there is a waiver for some of the countries, we want to get a waiver too,” Vassilev told national television BNT.

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“If not, we will not support sanctions. But I don’t expect it to come to that, based on negotiations at the moment,” he said.

Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, which rely heavily on Russian oil delivered through Soviet-era pipelines, face the challenge of securing alternative sources and have asked for a waiver of the ban. Bulgaria also requested a derogation.

The European Commission on Friday proposed changes to its initial planned embargo on Russian oil to give the three countries more time to shift their energy supplies, while Bulgaria has not been granted concessions, EU sources said.

Vassilev said Bulgaria also needed to get a waiver, as its only refinery at the Black Sea port of Burgas needed time to upgrade its necessary desulfurization facilities to process only non-Russian crude.

The Neftochim Burgas refinery, owned by Russia’s LUKOIL, is the dominant fuel supplier in the Balkan country, the poorest in the 27-member bloc. Currently, half of the oil processed comes from Russia.

The lack of an exemption would pose serious environmental risks to the Burgas region or force the oil refinery to slow down processing, which would create a deficit and further drive up fuel prices, he said.

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