SOFIA, Bulgaria: European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Union's executive arm, was present in Sofia, Bulgaria on October 1 to witness the opening of a natural gas link between Bulgaria and Greece.
Von der Leyen said the importance of the new pipeline was as an example of the EU's determination to end its reliance on Russian energy imports.
"This pipeline changes the energy security situation for Europe. This project means freedom," von der Leyen told an audience made up of heads of state and governments from the region.
The European Commission had earlier contributed nearly 250 million euros to finance the pipeline project, von der Leyen said.
The significance of the Gas Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria pipeline has dramatically grown since Moscow decided to turn off its natural gas deliveries to western Europe.
Also, a second European pipeline began operating on October 1, delivering fuel through the Baltic Pipe, which was built to carry gas from Norway's North Sea deposits, through Denmark and across the Baltic to northwestern Poland.
"People in Bulgaria and across Europe are feeling the consequences of Russia's war. But thanks to projects like this, Europe will have enough gas for the winter," von der Leyen said. "Europe has everything it needs to break free from our dependency on Russia. It is a matter of political will.
The 115-mile pipeline runs from the northeastern Greek city of Komotini, where it links to the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline, up to Stara Zagora in central Bulgaria.
"We have the opportunity to supply gas to the Western Balkans, to ensure supplies to Moldova and Ukraine," said the Bulgarian executive of the project, Teodora Georgieva, as quoted by the Associated Press.