Bulgaria will receive as requested an exemption until end-2024 from a European Union embargo on imports of Russian crude oil, which is part of the sixth package of EU sanctions against Russia in response to the ongoing war in Ukraine, Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov said on Tuesday.
The delay is necessary for Bulgaria as the country's oil refinery, Lukoil Neftochim Burgas, which is processing primarily Urals crude oil arriving from Russia, will need time to technically adapt to alternative supplies, Petkov said in a press release.
"This is an opportunity for us to sort out our refinery and avoid price increases based on changes in the mix," Petkov said on the sidelines of this week's special meeting of EU leaders in Brussels.
As a large grain exporter, Bulgaria could play a key role in mitigating potential food shortage risks due to the war disrupting exports of grain from Ukraine, with the port of Varna among the elements of solutions the EU is currently weighing up, such as "blue corridors," or safe shipping corridors out of Ukraine, the Bulgarian prime minister said.
On Monday, the leaders of EU member states agreed that the sixth package of EU sanctions against Russia will cover crude oil and petroleum products delivered to member states by sea, with a temporary exception for crude oil delivered by pipeline to be made.
EU members states also expressed readiness to grant Ukraine new exceptional macro-financial assistance of up to 9 billion euro ($9.65 billion) in 2022.
On Tuesday, the European Council will review progress made by members states to date in phasing out the dependency on imports of Russian fossil fuels.
Fuel retailer Lukoil Bulgaria and oil refinery Lukoil Neftochim Burgas, both units of Russia's Lukoil, operate in Bulgaria. The Neftochim refinery located about 15 km from the city of Burgas on the Black Sea, claims to be the largest oil-refining enterprise on the Balkan Peninsula and a major supplier of fuels to Bulgaria's domestic market.
Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic were last month reported to be the other member states, apart from Bulgaria, that were seeking exemption from a potential EU embargo on Russian oil.