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Bulgarian Premier Names Dobrev as Economy, Energy Minister

Traicho Traikov, a former Bulgarian economy and energy minister fired for delaying work on energy projects, will be succeeded by his deputy, Delyan Dobrev, Prime Minister Boiko Borissov said.

Traikov was dismissed late yesterday after returning from a visit to Qatar with Borissov. He delayed work on projects including the South Stream pipeline, which would ship natural gas from Russia to Europe, and other projects including links with the natural gas grids in neighboring Greece and Romania, Borissov said in an interview with Bulgarian National Television in Sofia today.

“We have no time to waste,” Borissov said. “Nothing has moved in the three years he was in charge of one of the most difficult ministries. Work on these projects must be sped up, so that after four years we can show people what we have done and ask to be re-elected.”

Borissov also dismissed his third health minister, Stefan Konstantinov, for failing to modernize the country’s health-care system. He will be succeeded by Dessislava Atanasova, the head of Parliament’s health-care committee, Borissov said. The government’s term ends in July 2013.

Pending Decision

Dobrev, 34, in charge of energy at the ministry, will have to decide at the end of this month whether to continue construction of a 2,000-megawatt nuclear power plant at Belene on the Danube with Rosatom, Russia’s state-run nuclear company, Borissov said. Bulgaria has delayed the decision for three years squabbling with Russia over the plant’s cost.

The decision will depend on a report by HSBC Holdings Plc, which Bulgaria hired as a consultant to estimate costs, find new investors and carry out an electricity market study.

“I expect the conclusions of the report to be presented as soon as it is completed,” Borissov said.

The European Union’s poorest country in terms of output per capita, gets most of its oil and gas from Russia and seeks to diversify its energy sources. Traikov sought to overturn Parliament’s Jan. 18 decision to ban hydraulic fracturing, which thwarted Chevron Corp.’s plans to explore for gas deposits in the Balkan country.

“The ban was imposed in response to people’s concerns their land will be contaminated by the explorations,” Borissov said. “The moratorium will last for as long as people feel uncertain about this exploration method.”

Traikov attributed the dismissal to his firm position in negotiations with Russia and his demands that Russia should cut the construction cost of the Belene plant, reduce gas prices by as much as 15 percent in a new supply contract and increase returns from the South Stream pipeline above 8 percent.

“Time will show the real reasons for my dismissal,” Traikov told reporters today.

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