SOFIA Feb 3 (Reuters) - Bulgaria's parliament ratified on Wednesday an agreement on the Nabucco natural gas pipeline signed by the project's host countries last year and aimed at cutting Europe's dependence on Russian gas supplies.
In July 2009 Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Austria signed the agreement which ironed out details over transit and tax issues in a move to boost the 7.9 billion euros ($10.99 billion) European Union-backed project. [ID:nLD637622]
Bulgaria is the second transit country after Hungary to ratify the agreement.
The Nabucco link aims to carry up to 31 billion cubic metres of natural gas a year from Caspian countries and Iraq to central Europe to reduce the region's reliance on Russian gas. But it faces rivalry from Russian-backed South Stream project.
Companies involved in the Nabucco project have said they aimed for first deliveries by 2015.
Last week, German utility and a Nabucco shareholder, RWE (RWEG.DE), said it hoped to secure one of the first supply agreements in the first six months of 2010. [ID:nVIE003490]
Analysts say binding supply agreements will prove that the project can get off the ground and some have voiced doubts that it will materialise on time due to weaker demand, and tough financing environment.
Other shareholders in Nabucco include Austria's OMV (OMVV.VI), Hungary's MOL MOLB.BU, Romania's Transgaz TGNM.BX, Bulgaria's Bulgargaz and Turkey's Botas.
Nabucco officials have said they expect gas supplies from Iraq, Azerbaijan and possibly Turkmenistan. (Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova)