In an apparent U-turn, Ukraine has requested the Commission’s mediation for securing its gas purchases from Gazprom, it emerged today (20 July).
Vice-President for the Energy Union Maroš Šefčovič was asked if the EU executive would again be involved in securing Ukraine’s gas purchases from Russia, which are also needed to secure the transit of Russian gas to the EU.
The European Union is eager to mediate between Kyiv and Moscow, because in 2009, when Gazprom stopped deliveries to Kyiv, the country used gas destined for Europe for its own domestic consumption, and left several EU countries in the cold.
In the summer period, Ukraine’s underground gas storage needs to be filled, with the replenishment usually taking place until mid-October. The underground gas storage is needed not only for domestic use, but for ensuring transit.
“It was one of the issues we discussed in great detail yesterday (19 July) with Ukrainian Prime Minister [Volodymyr] Groysman”, Šefčovič said.
Groysman made his first visit to the EU capital yesterday, after he replaced Arseny Yatsenyuk last April.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk announced his resignation on Sunday (10 April) in the wake of a months-long political crisis that has paralysed the government and frozen the release of vital Western aid.
Šefčovič added that there had been “a clear desire” from the Ukrainian partners to continue in the trilateral format with Russia, which he said had proven to be efficient and delivered good results over the last winter.
“We have every intention to continue in this format”, said the Commission Vice President, adding that the Ukrainian side had informed him that the country had the funds available to fill the gas storage, so that they would be ready for the next winter season, in a way which would guarantee both domestic consumption and transit obligations.
“For that, as it was in previous times, not only the addendum to the contracts between Gazprom and Naftogaz should be updated, but also there is strong wish from the Ukrainian side to look at how we can update the protocol we signed last winter.
Šefčovič said he is planning visits to both countries in early September, and that he hoped a constructive solution could be found, as it was the case during the last two winters.
The announcements by the Commission Vice President appear as a U-turn after Naftogaz announced last month that it would try to deal with Gazprom without EU mediation.
Ukrainian gas company Naftogaz issued a statement on Wednesday (8 June) indicating that it will consider purchasing gas from Gazprom, if the price is competitive, via direct contacts between the two companies.
Ukraine, Russia and the European Union signed a deal in October 2014 that allowed Moscow to resume vital supplies of gas to its ex-Soviet neighbour over the winter, in return for payments funded in part by Kyiv’s Western creditors.
A similar deal was signed in September 2015. However, for the first time, during the winter of 2015-2016, Ukraine did not purchase gas from Russia. Naftogaz has used reverse gas flows from its EU neighbours instead.