The Bulgarian finance ministry confirmed today that it had revoked the license for operation of the largest oil refinery on the Balkans.
Under a pretense Bulgaria’s customs agency has stripped the Russian-owned Lukoil Neftochim oil refinery in Burgas of its license to operate. The reason given was that the Russian company did not comply with the requirement to install fuel meters on time. The consequences are that Lukoil, a Gazprom-subsidiary, will loose 7% of its daily profit and Bulgaria will face a shortage of fuel, if this issue is not dealt with as fast as possible.
When asked for a statement, Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Boyko Borissov referred to the supremacy of law. The only problem in Bulgaria is, that the law in Bulgaria is applied selectively and the Lukoil case is not a precedent.
As a first reaction, Lukoil has announced a stop for deliveries of oil distillates to the Bulgarian market. Lukoil provides 40% of the demand for fuel in Bulgaria.
The question that should be asked is for how long the refinery has operated without the fuel meters and why all of a sudden the Bulgarian customs agency, backed by the Finance Ministry, has decided to deprive Lukoil from its license? Because, to put it straightforward, nobody ever cared about the fuel meters so far.
For an answer one is left to guessing. Whether this is a revenge act after Russia’s Atomstroyexport sued Bulgaria for non-payment of work already performed on the Belene Nuclear Power Plant project, or it has to do with Bulgaria’s quarrel with Gazprom about a long-term natural gas supply to the Balkan country, is unclear. It is certain however, that the people governing Bulgaria are more concerned about their personal whims and animosities than about the question how the people are going to heat their homes next winter.
But a severe shortage of fuel is not the only peril Bulgaria faces. The Lukoil refinery in Burgas also employs a large amount of workers and to permanently loose the Russian oil giant as an employer would wreak havoc on the already strained Bulgarian labour market.
Confronted with the dire consequences of this artificially created crisis, the head of Bulgarian customs agency laconically said “When the company corrects its faults, it will be able to ask for its license back.” The Bulgarian people certainly will rest a lot easier with that knowledge….
(Sources: Middle East & Balkans News own research; 28 July 2011)