Bulgaria's parliament on Friday ratified a deal with Russia to build a natural gas pipeline that competes with a U.S. and European Union-backed project and boosts Moscow's dominance over European Union energy supplies.
The agreement was ratified in a 140-47 vote with two abstentions.
The EUR 10 billion (US$15.7 billion) South Stream project will be jointly built by Russian gas export monopoly Gazprom and Italy's ENI and carry 30 billion cubic meters (1.15 trillion cubic feet) of Russian gas a year.
The projected 550-mile (900-kilometer) pipeline would carry gas from the Russian port of Novorossiisk under the Black Sea to Bulgaria and then branch off for delivery deeper in Europe.
Under the deal, a company with 50 percent Bulgarian and 50 percent Russian ownership will be set up to construct and run the pipeline on Bulgarian soil.
The European Union, with the United States, has pushed another pipeline called Nabucco, but that project lags far behind South Stream.
Opposition politicians voted against the project, arguing that it would undercut Nabucco and dash the European Union's hopes of reducing its growing reliance on Russia.
But the government said that South Stream was not an alternative to Nabucco, in which EU newcomer Bulgaria is also a partner.
"Nabucco is top priority for Bulgaria and for the EU as it ensures alternatives, but it has not been provided with natural gas yet," Energy Minister Petar Dimitrov said in parliament.