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North Macedonia withdraws plans to invest in Bulgaria’s Belene NPP project

North Macedonia has withdrawn plans to invest in Bulgaria’s Belene nuclear power plant project, local media reported on November 23, citing the director of the state-run power producer ESM.

The reasons for temporarily abandoning the Belene project were not given. However, the decision come after Bulgaria exercised its veto to block the start of the EU accession talks with its western neighbour North Macedonia.

Last year, North Macedonia’s authorities expressed interest in acquiring a minority stake in the controversial Belene project and signing an electricity purchasing agreement. 

However, on November 23 ESM general director Vasko Kovacevski was cited by broadcaster Telma as saying that instead of Belene the company will be focused on investments in a gas power plant in Alexandroupolis, Greece.

“I want to emphasise that we are temporarily abandoning the planned investment in the Belene plant and focusing on the possibility of investing in a gas-fired power plant near the liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal in Alexandroupolis,” he said at the Macedonian Energy Forum.

The Alexandroupolis power plant will have an installed capacity of up to 800 MW.

“North Macedonia through ESM would gain 25% ownership and up to 200 MW, which will significantly improve the company's performance in terms of stable electricity production,”  Kovacevski added.

The implementation of the Belene project has been canceled several times by the Bulgarian authorities. The government of Prime Minister Boyko Borissov decided to relaunch the project in 2018 despite warnings by economists that building the new power plant is expensive and unnecessary.