In a few days Bulgaria wants to be part of the Schengen area. The government in Sofia fears that angering Hungary or Serbia could hinder this goal in the final stages.
Bulgaria has postponed the collection of transit fees for Russian natural gas in order not to jeopardize its planned accession to Schengen due to possible objections from Hungary. The fees, which were only introduced in October, are to be paid by the Russian gas company Gazprom, but could affect prices for Hungary and Serbia, for which Bulgaria passes through Russian gas. To date, according to Bulgarian sources, Gazprom has neither paid nor commented on the transit fee of around 10 euros per megawatt hour of gas.
Bulgaria is very close to joining Schengen and wants to avoid this fee hindering this, said the head of the co-governing center-right Gerb party, Boiko Borissov. The background is Bulgaria’s efforts to join the border-free Schengen area on January 1st. The Netherlands and Austria have been blocking Schengen accession since 2022. According to media reports, Vienna is now ready to relax its position.
Hungarian President Viktor Orban has reportedly threatened to veto Bulgaria’s Schengen entry if Sofia does not lift the fee on Russian natural gas. Borissov and the chairman of the co-ruling liberal PP, Kiril Petkov, have decided to wait for a corresponding EU mechanism regarding transit fees for Russian natural gas, Borissov explained.