Balkan pipeline.

Kathimerini English - - Focus -

tive, then inch­ing up to 1.3 per­cent in 2018 and 1.5 per­cent in 2019, the ECB said in its quar­terly Sur­vey of Pro­fes­sional Fore­cast­ers. “There are no signs yet of a con­vinc­ing up­ward trend in un­der­ly­ing in­fla­tion,” Draghi told a press con­fer­ence on Thurs­day af­ter re­view­ing the sur­vey’s re­sults. “Mea­sures of un­der­ly­ing in­fla­tion are ex­pected to rise more grad­u­ally over the medium term.” In­fla­tion has been far be­low the ECB’s tar­get for years with at least Ire­land still in de­fla­tion, and Cyprus, Greece and Italy record­ing close to zero price growth, il­lus­trat­ing that the bloc is far from fully re­cov­er­ing from one of the worst fi­nan­cial crises for decades.

Bul­garia and Ser­bia on Thurs­day signed a mem­o­ran­dum of un­der­stand­ing to work to­gether for the con­struc­tion of a nat­u­ral gas pipeline to link the Balkan neigh­bors to boost se­cu­rity of sup­plies and re­duce their strong reliance on Rus­sian gas. “This is a very im­por­tant day for Ser­bia and Bul­garia,” Ser­bian En­ergy Min­is­ter Alek­san­dar An­tic said af­ter sign­ing the mem­o­ran­dum with his Bul­gar­ian coun­ter­part Te­menuzhka Petkova. The two coun­tries plan to be­gin the con­struc­tion of the 150-kilo­me­ter gas in­ter­con­nec­tor link by May 2019 and have it op­er­a­tional by the end of 2020. Bul­garia has al­ready drafted a tech­ni­cal plan for the 61 km of the pipeline that will link Sofia with the Ser­bian city of Nis. Ser­bia, which hopes to wrap up its EU mem­ber­ship talks by 2019, is un­der pres­sure from Brus­sels to re­duce its de­pen­dence on Rus­sian gas, which ac­counts for more than 80 per­cent of its needs, to join the bloc. Bul­garia, which still gets more than 95 per­cent of its gas from Rus­sia’s Gazprom, has opened a gas link with neigh­bor­ing Ro­ma­nia and is work­ing to con­nect its gas net­work with neigh­bor­ing Greece and Turkey to di­ver­sify its sup­pli­ers.

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