Bulgaria is hopeful that the 900km South Stream pipeline project between Russia's Gazprom and Italian group Eni will strengthen a long-standing partnership between Gazprom and Bulgargaz, a natural gas distributing company in Bulgaria.

The new pipeline is expected to transport gas from Russia to Italy via Bulgaria’s Black Sea port of Burgas, cross Greece and then beneath the Adriatic.

The Financial Times quoted Georgi Parvanov, president of Bulgaria, as saying: We’re attempting to build modern relations [with Russia] which are firmly on an economic basis.

We have contacts with Moscow because Russia is a major source of energy for the region. But our vision is to be a part of European Union energy policy, and we’re trying to diversify our oil and gas sources as well as the pipeline routes. In this context we work with one or more EU partners.

As part of its attempts to diversify EU energy sources, the Bulgarian government has also signed up for the Nabucco project, a proposed natural gas pipeline expected to transport natural gas from Turkey to Austria, via Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary.