An MEP has accused the European Commission of spreading misinformation concerning an ongoing gas scandal in Bulgaria. (Photo by Hristo Rusev/Getty Images)


EC ‘spreading misinformation’ over Bulgaria gas controversy, MEP claims


An MEP has accused the European Commission of spreading misinformation concerning an ongoing gas scandal in Bulgaria.

In a press statement seen by Brussels Signal, Identity and Democracy group representative Gunnar Beck slammed the EC for claiming that all European Union Member States were following its recent post-Ukraine war gas-storage directives despite the Bulgarian scandal.

Critics claim the Bulgarian Government has illegally shown favouritism to state-owned operator Bulgargaz in the provision of aid following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine while private operators are refused similar grants.

Despite this, the EC stated in March that every EU country had met its obligation under the bloc’s gas-storage rules.

“So far, there is no Member State which fails to adopt and implement measures to meet the requirements set out in [the regulations],” energy Commissioner Kadri Simson said on behalf of the EC.

Speaking to Brussels Signal, Beck claimed that not only is such a statement untrue but the EC knows it is untrue.

“The Commission is fully aware of Bulgaria’s failures to meet basic competition and anti-trust rules where Bulgargaz is concerned,” the German AfD politician said.

He added that enabling Bulgarian politicians to “drag their heels” on the issue unfairly favoured Bulgargaz, which he described as being “demonstrably hostile to any private competitor”.

“Any further delay by Bulgaria in meeting its compensation commitments for all operators who played their part in the gas-storage campaign is another hammer blow to competition,” he said.

“The Commission must know that the only possible beneficiary of the delay is a state-owned behemoth, which has demonstrated open contempt for EU rules and principles.”

Such sentiments were echoed by Ireland’s former European affairs minister Dick Roche, who said failure on the part of the EC to protect private enterprise “could undermine the EU project”.

“The Commission needs to be more forceful in dealing with cases such as this,” the former Irish official, who also serves as an advisor to private Bulgarian gas supplier Overgas Inc. AD, told Brussels Signal.

The veteran ex-lawmaker emphasised that private gas suppliers were “key players” in helping to shore-up EU gas storage in 2022 and that they “will be needed to meet challenges in the future”.

“Besides being immoral, putting a financial gun to the head of the gas industry is not smart. Europe needs to preserve all the energy assets that it has,” Roche added.

Member States, including Bulgaria, needed to “settle their gas bills” or face problems down the road, he said.

Beck’s comments represented the latest chapter in a continuing controversy surrounding Bulgaria’s treatment of Bulgargaz compared to its private-sector competitors.

Having its origins in Bulgaria’s Soviet past, the company has repeatedly been accused of obstructing competition, with the EC attempting to fine its parent company, BEH, €77 million in 2018 for “blocking competitors’ access to key gas infrastructure in Bulgaria, in breach of EU anti-trust rules”.

“For years, Bulgarian natural-gas consumers have been denied a choice of suppliers because the BEH group refused to give access to its gas infrastructure to other wholesale gas suppliers,” the EC’s Margrethe Vestager said at the time.

“With today’s decision, we will promote the development of an open and competitive energy market to the benefit of consumers in Bulgaria, in line with Energy Union objectives.”

This fine was subsequently overturned in 2023, with the EU’s General Court ruling that the Commission had failed to show the state-owned firm’s actions resulted in difficulties for the third parties who had requested access.