Greece, Russia and Bulgaria on Wednesday will sign a deal for the construction of a new pipeline carrying Russian oil across SE Europe, from the Bulgarian city of Burgas to Alexandropolis in Greece. It is yet another project where Romania fails to make an appearance despite its efforts to become a key player in the sector, in this part of the continent.

The 280 km-long pipeline will cost about 700 million euro and will be operated by Russia, which holds a 51% stake. The rest is shared by Greece and Bulgaria.

The pipeline will transport oil to the Mediterranean Sea at a low price, which strengthens Russia’s domination on the European energy market and the role of Greece and Bulgaria as an energy hub in SE Europe.

The 17-year old project benefited of renewed interest from the three countries with the fast growth of oil prices over the past two years. Russian President Viadimir Putin, his Bulgarian counterpart Georgi Parvanov and Greek PM Costas Karamanlis held negotiations on the issue in Athens in September 2006.

The projec is due to be concluded by 2010, when will start carrying over 700,000 barrels daily with a maximum capacity of 1 million barrels.

The pipeline will be a direct competitor for the AMBO project linking Burgas to Vlore in Albania, via Macedonia. No news, however, of another major project, the EU-supported Nabucco, which involves Austria, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Botas in the Trans European Network program.