Commission Vice-President Maroš Šef?ovi? said today (25 February) that he is attempting to mediate between Ukraine and Russia, in order to avoid a new gas crisis.
A new conflict between Gazprom and the Ukrainian Naftogas came to light this week. Naftogas accuses Gazprom of violating an EU-brokered gas supply protocol and of not supplying prepaid gas to Ukraine. What appears to be happening is that Russia is supplying separatist regions with gas prepaid by Kyiv, instead.
EurActiv asked Šef?ovi? to comment if there was a risk of another gas crisis, with possible consequences for the transit of gas to the EU.
The Commissioner said that he is “in almost permanent phone contact” with the Russian Minister of Energy Alexander Novak, with his Ukrainian counterpart Vladimir Demchishin, and the head of Naftogaz Andriy Kobolev. He added that he had a phone call yesterday with Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk “on how to resolve the current situation”.
Šef?ovi? said that at this stage, the Commission had “conflicting information from both sides” concerning the gas supplies to the rebel-held regions of Donetsk and Lugansk, and also was confronted with conflicting approaches on how to monitor the gas supplies to these territories, access to which he said is very difficult for the EU’s officials, who could ensure monitoring.
Šef?ovi? said he had proposed to both sides that the winter package agreement should not be touched in any way.
On his last day in office as Energy Commissioner in November, together with his Russian and Ukrainian counterparts, Günther Oettinger signed a “winter package”, essentially ensuring prepaid gas to Ukraine until the end of March.
However, now Gazprom claims Ukraine’s balance was of 219 million cubic metres (mcm), an amount that would be used up in two days. With no new payment, Russia would be forced to stop supplies to Ukraine, Gazprom said, adding that there were “serious” risks to gas transit to Europe via Ukraine after Kyiv failed to make a pre-payment.
Šef?ovi? stated that “everything should work as it did until last Friday”, referring to the time when the problems with the supply of Donetsk and Lugansk arose. The issue of the winter package, and the supply to Donetsk and Lugansk, should be treated separately, he said, adding that this was his proposal to both parties today.
“We hope to keep the winter package intact”, Šef?ovi? said. He added that his services were trying to convene a trilateral meeting with the Ukrainian and Russian energy ministers and himself.
“We are looking for a possible date, because we think the issue requires immediate action,” Šef?ovi? said.