The European Parliament (EP) said it has passed legislation that would require EU member states to disclose more about their energy deals with third countries, but could also strengthen their positions in negotiations.
Bulgaria, along with most other countries in Southeast Europe, is heavily dependent on Russian gas supplies.
The new legislation will enable the European Commission to vet deals with third countries for compatibility with EU, but will also enable the European Commission, to support member states, at their request in cases like that which arose in 2010, when the Commission backed Poland's request for access to the Polish section of the Yamal natural gas pipeline, which is partly owned by Russian gas giant Gazprom, the EP said in a statement on its website on Thursday.
"The EU is very dependent on energy imports. In the gas sector imports account for 60% of its needs and in the oil sector 80%. It is in the interest of European consumers that the EU speaks with one voice with any external energy supplier. This would lead to greater coordination among the member states and lower prices for consumers," rapporteur Kriajanis Karins was quoted as saying.
Member states will have to submit to the Commission, within three months of the legislation's entry into force, all existing bilateral intergovernmental agreements with third countries. The Commission would then have nine months in which to inform the member states concerned if its first assessment has led to doubts on the compatibility with union law. Member states may notify the Commission of any new agreements, before or during negotiations. The Commission could then - at the request of the EU country concerned or on its own initiative, if the member state agrees - take part in the negotiations as an observer and provide advice or suggest non-binding clauses.