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    Bulgaria to Finish TurkStream Work by Year-end: PM


Bulgaria was slow to select a construction contractor last year,

by: Joseph Murphy

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Bulgaria to Finish TurkStream Work by Year-end: PM

Bulgarian prime minister Boyko Borissov said on June 1 he hoped that work in Bulgaria on the Balkan Stream, an extension of Russia's TurkStream gas pipeline, would be finished by the end of 2020, despite the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

Bulgaria had initially aimed to complete its 474-km section of the pipeline, which will continue into Serbia and end in Hungary, by the end of last year. But work stalled, partly because of delays in selecting a construction contractor. A consortium led by Saudi Arabia's Arkad eventually secured a contract worth €1.1bn ($1.2bn) in September, following a legal dispute.

Russia has grown increasingly frustrated with the lack of progress, with Russian president Vladimir Putin in December even accusing Sofia of deliberating delaying the project. He threatened to reroute the pipeline around the country.

"Despite the coronavirus, no matter how difficult it was, work has not stopped on ... the Balkan Stream," Borissov told reporters after inspecting the progress in construction with Serbian president Alexander Vucic. "Let's hope that coronavirus is gone. And despite two to three months' delay we hope to meet the timeline and have it ready by the end of the year."

Some 91.4 km of pipes have been laid in the prepared trenches, the Bulgarian government said in a statement. The rest have been delivered along the pipeline's route, or to temporary construction bases, or have arrived at the port of Bourgas and are being moved to these bases on a daily basis.