Europe Gives Bulgaria A Bank System Lifeline As Battle Over "South Stream" Pipeline Heats Up

Tyler Durden's picture

As we reported a week ago, as a result of various political developments (and potentially other reasons, still unknown) the poorest EU country, Bulgaria, suddenly found itself gripped by the worst bank run it has suffered in 17 years, when first its fourth largest bank, Corpbank, was nationalized, followed by a second bank run slamming its third largest bank, Fibank. Promptly thereafter, in an attempt to preserve calm, Bulgaria’s central bank issued a dramatically-worded statement on Friday warning of “an attempt to destabilise the state through an organized attack against Bulgarian banks” coupled with the issuance of €1.5 billion in 10 year bonds at a 3.055% yield, to demonstrate that the country still has access to capital markets (in the biggest bond bubble in history that is a given) and has liquidity.

Alas since that too failed to preserve calm in a country in which even the leader of the opposition (which has every interest in destabilizing the economy) piled on and said the banks are essentially insolvent, Bulgaria resorted to arresting two men who were suspected of involvement in what they have described as an organized attempt to destabilise the country's financial system by encouraging citizens to withdraw bank deposits.

Which brings us to today, when moments ago, Reuters reports that the European Commission said on Monday it had approved a Bulgarian request to extend a credit line of 3.3 billion levs ($2.30 billion) in support of banks that have come under speculative attack.

“The Commission concluded that the state aid implied by the provision of the credit line is proportionate and commensurate with the need to ensure sufficient liquidity in the banking system in the particular circumstances,” the EU executive said in a statement.


The statement said Bulgaria’s banking system was “well capitalised and has high levels of liquidity compared to its peers in other member states. For precautionary reasons, Bulgaria has taken this measure to further increase the liquidity and safeguard its financial system”.


The move follows runs by jittery depositors on two major Bulgarian commercial banks in the space of a week.

And while this latest backstop of the Bulgarian bank system should provide a respite from bank insolvency fears (if only for the time being), one wonders.

Recall that as we explained earlier, Bulgaria is the critical first European leg of the Russian "South Stream" pipeline as it emerges from the Black Sea: a pipeline which the European Commission has sternly objected to, yet which Russia recently signed a deal with Austria (which balked at European demands to isolate Russia) to activate.

Which means that with Austria siding with Russia, Europe has to isolate and convert the "feeder" countries, those which the South Stream crosses on its way to central Europe.

Ludicrous? Not really. This is what we reported last week:

Recall that it was in January, two months before the Ukraine government was overthrown that the prime minister of Bulgaria - a country that has a very distinguished love/hate relationship with Russia (a relationship which the US would love to make more "hate") - Plamen Oresharski, surprisingly ordered a halt to work on the South Stream, on the recommendation of the EU. The decision was announced after his talks with US senators.


"At this time there is a request from the European Commission, after which we've suspended the current works, I ordered it," Oresharski told journalists after meeting with John McCain, Chris Murphy and Ron Johnson during their visit to Bulgaria on Sunday. "Further proceedings will be decided after additional consultations with Brussels."


At the time McCain, commenting on the situation, said that "Bulgaria should solve the South Stream problems in collaboration with European colleagues," adding that in the current situation they would want "less Russian involvement" in the project.


"America has decided that it wants to put itself in a position where it excludes anybody it doesn't like from countries where it thinks it might have an interest, and there is no economic rationality in this at all. Europeans are very pragmatic, they are looking for cheap energy resources - clean energy resources, and Russia can supply that. But the thing with the South Stream is that it doesn't fit with the politics of the situation," Ben Aris, editor of Business New Europe told RT.


It was also in January when EU authorities ordered Bulgaria to suspend construction on its link of the pipeline, which is planned to transport Russian natural gas through the Black Sea to Bulgaria and onward to western Europe. Brussels wants the project frozen, pending a decision on whether it violates the EU competition regulations on a single energy market. It believes South Stream does not comply with the rules prohibiting energy producers from also controlling pipeline access.


Therein, of course, lies the rub, because as Europe has learned the hard way so many times, its overrliance on Russia for both the production and the transit of gas means that it has absolutely no leverage over the Kremlin - something recent events in Ukraine have only confirmed.


“They do everything to disrupt this contract. There is nothing unusual here. This is an ordinary competitive struggle. In the course of this competition, political tools are also being used,” the Russian president said after holding talks with his Austrian counterpart, President Heinz Fischer, in Vienna.

So, one wonders: will a key condition for this $2.3 billion "rescue" loan be that Bulgaria turn its back on Putin, halt the South Stream permanently, and block any further work on what has suddenly become Europe's most important pipeline alternative - one which makes Ukraine (and all western investment therein) the most irrelevant country in Europe (as explained earlier today).

One also wonders if the recent escalation of troubles in Bulgaria's banking sector were not, perhaps, Brussels inflicted. After all, who had the most to win from a financial, economic and political crisis in the country?

Finally, one wonders if the above is true, and this is merely the latest act in a play starring Russian gas (as was the case with Syria and Ukraine, and so on) just how much deeper will the Bulgarian crisis will escalate until Europe gets its way, and - alternatively - just when and under what conditions will Putin step in with his own counterproposal? After all the Kremlin already got Crimea and east Ukraine, followed swiftly by the heart of Europe itself: Vienna. What is a small, former USSR satellite country to the former KGB spy?

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observer007's picture

NEWS on MH370:


MH370 / GeoResonance: One of the most respected companies involved in geological search has come out with a shocking press release on June 30th 2014.


Latina Lover's picture

Screw your spam.   I will send a copy of your letter to the Nigerians, who will show you how it is really done.

Latina Lover's picture

Bulgarian Banks are under speculative attack because they are undercapitalized, over leveraged pieces of too big to fail crap. They deserve to fail

Svetoslav Tassev's picture

Wrong!  Bulgarian banks are among the most well capitalized in the World.  Capital adequacy ratio is over 20% while cash is close to 9% of assets.  Also, Bulgarian banks are NOT under speculative attack.  The government ordered state owned companies to withdraw deposits from one bank due to serious arguments with the owner of that bank.

Oracle 911's picture

I think the Russins come in and something like this:

"We will provide you a loan with better terms than the ECB, EU, IMF and other Western institution will ever and you get better natural gas prices as transit country. And you will STFU about how much are we involved in the South stream project."


The Bulgarian government will agree with the Russians and will stop being (at least in this case) the West's bitch.

PHantomofthemarkets's picture

Bulgaria does not need a loan from EU, IMF or ECB why would Russia offer a loan then? Since Bulgaria already has discounted prices and would make money from transit there is also no need for help.

Working together could bring a win win situation for both. Unfortunately they became part of the EU...

stoneworker's picture

I personally do not know a lot about the politics in Bulgaria, but I think that there is another possible scenario. The Bulgarian PM ended up screwing Putin and all of the sudden bank runs start, and he is forced to call for early elections...I guess the question is the opposition more pro South stream or less? If there are any Bulgarians out there please let me know.

PHantomofthemarkets's picture

There is no relation between the bank run and the elections, it was already decided there would be new elections.

But someone is going very low, risking the whole Bulgarian system, to win those elections. Who? We will never know but we can analyse the reactions of the politicians.

It is only weeks ago that the prime minister was forced to suspend the pipeline because a breach of EU rules. It was completely not related with the visit of US senator McCain that day even if the prime minister only 2 days before that said construction would not be halted...

stoneworker's picture

I am not sure if this is sarcasm "It is only weeks ago that the prime minister was forced to suspend the pipeline because a breach of EU rules. It was completely not related with the visit of US senator McCain that day even if the prime minister only 2 days before that said construction would not be halted..." My question is what is the stance of the opposition on the South Stream?

Sirius Wonderblast's picture

EU rules only matter when/if the EU wants them to matter. That's why they haven't bothered that the auditors have refused to sign off the EU's accounts for the last 14 years straight. Just waiting for Putin's masterstroke, because they won't have gone into the Austria deal blind to the Bulgaria issue.

tonyw's picture

"what is the stance of the opposition on the South Stream?"  whoever pays them the most gets to choose??

Oldrepublic's picture

Hotel California!

re: EU and Bulgaria

tonyw's picture

in which case the government will be overthrown due to a "popular uprising" completely different to the ukraine since this one will cost much less than $5bn.


If bulgarian banks are “well capitalised and has high levels of liquidity compared to its peers in other member states" what the heck does that tell you about other banks.

Just remember he who panics first panics best, the first guy in line gets his money but the last guy gets "bailed in".


Bunga Bunga's picture

"When it gets serious, you have to lie"

Show me a banking system in the world, that's sound. Fractional reserve is just a confidence game and a panic does not follow any logic.



Kirk2NCC1701's picture

Newsflash:  Local Drug Lords have extended a Lifestyle Lifeline to its Preferred Customers, who have come under attack from Rehab organizations, by offering them Product Loans.

IronShield's picture

Gonna be a darn cold winter; choose wisely grasshopper.

pakled's picture

The statement said Bulgaria’s banking system was “well capitalised and has high levels of liquidity compared to its peers in other member states."



Bulgaria Bob

Hulk's picture

Gotta love it, bankrupt entities giving bankrupt entities a lifeline. Definitley we live in crazy town... 

PHantomofthemarkets's picture

There is not a single bankrupt entity involved my dearest.

Fibank is up and running, if clients want to withdrawn their money they can freely do so.
Imagine that in the West!!!

The other bank is closed temporarily, investigation is running and it will open again after 3 months and will probably be running like before. That bank was owned by a politician so I guess noboady will be surprised there might have been some murky business ...

holgerdanske's picture

"That bank was owned by a politician so I guess noboady will be surprised there might have been some murky business ..."


Not surprised at all!

I would only get surprised if there was a bank without any murky business, now THAT would be surprising!!

Kirk2NCC1701's picture

Such a pipeline would mean ca$h income and gas for the host countries, right?

E.g. Bulgaria and the former Yugo Slav (Southern Slav) brothers... Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia.  I'd imagine that Serbia has an axe to grind against Brussels/NATO, and would be all to happy to help out.  Croatia and especially Slovenia, on the other hand, are comfortably ensconced as servile peasants of NATO/US.

PHantomofthemarkets's picture

The pipeline will come on land in Bulgaria and from there to Serbia.

No plans for Romania, if Europe keeps boycotting the pipeline will go on land in Turkey. Turkey is also a big client for Russian gas.

Southstream for Bulgaria would be very profitable, they can use that because when you have a strict financial policy and you don't pile your debts up to the ceiling then there must come REAL MONEY in.

Apparently Europe doesn't like Bulgaria and wants to destroy it completely by shutting down all profitable projects.

BTW: Since Bulgaria has joined the EU, and especially since 2010, Bulgaria is going backwards every day. People are getting poorer, roads more bad, economy stays fragile. When Bulgaria tries to do something they get smashed down by the EU and keep dependant on EU subsidies. It's a way of ruling I gues.


stoneworker's picture

The only person I met from Bulgaria said exactly what you just said.

Joe A's picture

Serbia is pretty much screwed as any geographically strategically positioned country. Go ask the Poles. Serbia is under pressure from both the EU and Russia. Serbia's president tends towards Russia while the PM tends towards the EU so there is an internal political struggle as well. The only advantage that Serbia has is a potential ally in an historically otherwise adversary called Austria. If Serbia is smart they can play this nicely in their favor. Europe needs gas and Austria has shown that when it comes to gas then it is "fuck the EU". But pressure on Serbia from the EU and US will increase.

Joe A's picture

You changed your post. Your removed your text. You have done this with your other posts as well.

Dewey Cheatum Howe's picture

It is just wrangling over Moldova and the threat to cut off gas completely to the Ukraine over this. Russians can easily put a junction pipe in and bypass Bulgaria completely via Romania (they are all probably quietly negotiating this along with Transnistria becoming a Russian exclave oblast like Kalingrad and the eventual reunification of Moldova with Romania and Gagauzia becoming an independent and officially recognized country using the gas transit routes as bargaining chips).

The Russians are probably also squeezing balls on the back end concerning Azerbaijan and the Caspian Sea gas fields dispute over whether it is a lake or sea at the same time concerning the TAP pipeline.

Remember if the EU was so concerned about diversifying gas for Bulgaria they would be building a junction to feed Bulgaria off of the TAP pipeline since it is replacing Nabucco for the Azerbaijani gas that was supposed to flow through Bulgaria originally and now isn't with Southstream. Not only that the Russians dropped the southern corridor project and in turn competition with TAP pipeline.

If any outside force is applying pressure on the Bulgarian banking system the EU (Brussels) or CIS (Russia) it is just ball squeezing to wring out concessions elsewhere since it is in neither's long term interest to see the Bulgarian banking system go tits up.

COSMOS's picture

Facts on the ground say that Transnistria is only thirty percent russian with 30 percent Ukes and thirty percent Romanians.  A stretch for Russia to claim it as its own.  Gaugazians are a minority people surrounded by moldovans/romanians, the Gaugazians were settled there by the Russians.  They are a Turkic people which are Christian. They have minority rights in Moldova and I believe are less than ten percent of the population, they can exist quite nicely withing the borders of Moldova since they are not discriminated against.

Dewey Cheatum Howe's picture

Transnistria is a giant Russian military base masquerading as an independent region. It serves only one purpose as a secondary spigot point to shut off southern transiting gas to keep Bulgaria, Moldova and recently to control the Northern feeder of Nabucco in check if they every lost control of Ukraine. Both are well were with the exception of Moldova 100% dependent on Russian gas. The Russians have pretty much all but conceded they are going to lose the Moldova train to the EU but not without it losing a few cars in the process aka Transnistria and Gagauzia.

Plus you forget about this

Whether it becomes an exclave or independent country is going to depend how Moldova plays out which includes Gagauzia reacting to the free trade association agreement Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine just signed with the EU.

Read my comments on the other gas thread here about Gagauzia and take a good look and the pipeline transit routes.

And for those that don't want to read directly these articles.

Dewey Cheatum Howe's picture

If you understand that Putin likes to play judo chess you'll understand what is going on here.

Between Transnistria and Gaguazia depending how things progress with Moldova and it's integration into the EU the bigger prize is Romania even though they may wind up losing both integrating Moldova and Gaguazia into the CIS but I am not going go into why right now. That is quite a few moves ahead right now.

COSMOS's picture

I dont quite see how the bigger prize can be Romania. They are relatively energy self sufficient. Oil fields have been producing since 1918 though production substantially down, via new gas and oil fields discovered in the Black Sea, they are extending gas pipelines to Moldova in case Russia cuts the tap to Moldova to exert control over EU integration process.  30 percent of Romania is covered by mountains which offer hydroelectric power (in fact Romania feeds 70% of the water that flows out of the Danube from its snow caps and watershed areas of the Transylvanian Alps aka Carpathian Mts ).  One large nuclear complex with CANDU reactors for diversity of power.  Lots of green energy potential within the very windy Dobrogea region that abuts the Black Sea

The Euros have firmly entrenched themselves in Romania which has the largest foreign land ownership of any Euro country.  The Euros know it is very important to them since it has the Danube and the large port on the Black Sea named Constanta.  Via this gateway lots of Euros including Germany have access to the black sea and the Mediterranean.  They will not let the Russians control this area.  Look I am not saying its necessarily the best thing for the Romanians to be under Euro control, but they are now firmly under EU claws, with most of its companies bought out by the big Euro conglomerates, the Romanians can never turn back and get independence again. Romania before WW1 was the fourth largest producer of agricultural products in the world (read this on wiki somewhere) and that is where the problem with the Russians started, they were not happy with the competition from the Romanians and sought to choke off their control of the Danube and coastal access. Also since the Danube is the only waterway access to the Black Sea, for landlocked countries like Serbia, Austria, Hungary it is a huge deal in geopolitical control.

Out of all the countries in South Eastern Europe, Romania was a key grab by the west for the reasons outlined. Danube and port access to the Black Sea and thus Mediterranean and Central Asia via Georgia across the Black Sea.  German goods can be shipped down Danube (international waterway) via barges to port city Constanta and then by ship to Georgia or Turkey and then to Central Asia etc.  Agricultural potential.  The Romanians speak a Latin language distinct from the Slavic languages in the surrounding areas and thus easier to pry away from Russian influence (though the people in Romania are orthodox christians and religiously have strong ties with the other eastern european countries that are orthodox). Romania and Russia got off on the wrong foot after Russia took control of Moldova which is a region populated by Romanians and one of the three main Romanian regions in that area (Wallachia, Transylvania, and Moldova).  A large piece of Moldova was taken by the Russians while Romania was still under Ottoman control, and called Moldovan Republic.  The other fragment of Moldova is still in Romania proper and also called 'moldova'

The Russians have always looked at south eastern Europe as their little orthodox brothers who have to do what they are told especially since Constantinople became Ottoman and the Russians saw themselves as the new capital of the orthodox faith. This has brought about lots of negative feelings in most countries there with the exception being Serbia.

Dewey Cheatum Howe's picture

Who said anything about controlling Romania? Stop thinking so linearly.

Danube is not that important concerning the issue of Moldova, Ukraine is a bigger issue there specifically the Odessa oblast.

Svetoslav Tassev's picture

 "So, one wonders: will a key condition for this $2.3 billion "rescue" loan be that Bulgaria turn its back on Putin" -  What rescue loan?  There is no rescue loan given to Bulgaria.  EC approved Bulgaria's request to use 3.3 billion leva of Bulgaria's own fiscal reserve to support Bulgarian banks.  According to EU regulations any help given to a private enterprise will have to be approved by EC.

" it had approved a Bulgarian request to extend a credit line of 3.3 billion levs ($2.30 billion) in support of banks that have come under speculative attack." -So, I guess this is where confusion comes from.  Reuters must have given the impression that EU is giving money to Bulgaria.  EU is not giving money to Bulgaria.  EU is allowing Bulgaria to help Bulgarian banks with Bulgarian money.


Ivan Nokabolokov's picture

If Putin would allow that southern pipeline thru Syria I'm sure something can be worked out.

As a Yurpean from Yurp I demand that whoever wants to build pipelines into Yurp, whether for Iraq, Iran, Saudi, Russia be allowed to to do so resulting in some free market economics and lower prices.

Svetoslav Tassev's picture

"Finally, one wonders if the above is true, and this is merely the latest act in a play starring Russian gas (as was the case with Syria and Ukraine, and so on) just how much deeper will the Bulgarian crisis will escalate until Europe gets its way, and - alternatively - just when and under what conditions will Putin step in with his own counterproposal"

Let's not get carried away here with geopolitics.  The leader of one of the two governing political parties in Bulgaria borrowed significant amount (some say 300 million euros) from Corporate Commercial Bank but did not want to pay back the loan.  The bank run was a result of state owned companies withdrawing deposits from the bank in order to force the current majority shareholder out of the bank.  The state prosecutors and the central bank cooperated. (The central bank was forced to cooperate after the state prosecutor opened an investigation on trumped up charges agains one of the vice-governors of the bank). 

I would not look for evidence of an epic struggle between Russia and the US everywhere around.

PHantomofthemarkets's picture

There is no way it has any use of not paying a loan back to the bank. They always will collect.

If collapsing would have that effect we would try to collapse all banks every day.

We agree the Bulgarian banking system is stable but your information about Peev is clearly coming from a side that is stating now that Bulgarian banks are insolvent just to gain more political power.

joak's picture

Hi Svetoslav, I live in BG, moje li to talk a bit in private about this issue ?

Dewey Cheatum Howe's picture

If I was cynical I'd say the real culprits causing the Bulgarian banking instability would be Bulgaria itself on purpose to get free Euros and Rubles from on their terms playing both sides on the energy security issue here. Kind of like what the Greek government does concerning bailouts from the Troika. Sounds like this is just the first stage of wealth redistribution to oligarchs and the politically connected looting their own resources first knowing the banks will ultimately get backstopped by the EU.

kchrisc's picture

Bulgaria must be left "pure" for Israel's pipeline once Syria is subdued by their CIA puppets.

Does not matter if Russia goes east or that Europeans will pay more in the end so long as Israel is making the sales and the loot.


"'Following the money' only gives one half the picture. 'Following the Ashkenazi' gives one the whole picture."

"Follow the Ashkenazi."

shovelhead's picture

Them Saudis are running out of patience with Obama.

First they have to fund Syrian rebels, then Ukrainian nazis, then ISIS and now Bulgarian banks.

"What's it gonna take to get our gas to Europe and squeeze out Putin?"

We should have warned Saudis about affirmative action hiring and not getting what you pay for.

The Blank Stare's picture


Just a bunch of mafia's!


Jojo Krako: I wanna know what happened!

Scott: It looks like we put the bag on YOU, doesn't it?

Jojo Krako: I got rights!

Scott: You got nothin'. You mind you place, mister, or you'll... you'll be wearin' concrete galoshes.

Jojo Krako: You mean cement overshoes?

Scott: Erm... Aye.


luckylongshot's picture

How dumb are the EU politicians who are supporting the US in their attempt to ultimately shaft the EU by disrupting the gas supply?....incredibly stupid!!!

Phuk u's picture

Call me stupid but if the gas cant get through Bulgaria to Austria, Putin and Austria are fucked..

....only sayin

stoneworker's picture

They could always go through Turkey...or let them ride out the winter and then talk when the weather is -20 C