Russia and Ukraine have sought support from Brussels in a bid to resolve a week-long dispute over gas supplies, which has seen six European countries start to experience gas shortages. EU national envoys will meet today in the Belgian capital under the auspices of the Czech EU Presidency to develop a common response.
Russia’s Gazprom halted gas supplies to Ukraine on 1 January after talks on renegotiating a new delivery contract for 2009 broke down amid fierce disputes over pricing.
Although supplies to EU countries should not be affected, several member states reported a reduction in Russian deliveries. Russia says Ukraine is stealing natural gas destined for Europe to make up for its own needs. Ukraine denies that it is stealing gas, saying there are technical reasons for Europe’s natural gas reductions. Kiev also asked for EU mediation, an option rejected by Moscow.
In the five days since the shutdown, Poland, which was hit worst by the dispute, has reported a drop of 11 percent in Russian gas supplied via Ukraine. But other countries like Hungary, Romania, Turkey, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic also felt the effects of reduced supply.
The EU was at first reluctant to intervene in the dispute, which it sees as a commercial row. But the Union’s ambassadors are meeting today (5 January) in Brussels to discuss the issue and coordinate a common response. The bloc could send an investigating team to the two countries within days, EU officials said on Saturday (3 January), quoted in Deutsche Presse.
According to analysts, the EU has sufficient storage to cover supplies for a few months. Utilities firms in Germany, which gets 37 percent of its supply from Russia, said deliveries were taking place as normal and customers were not experiencing any disruptions.
The dispute has forced both Ukraine and Russia to reassure Europeans that their supply will not be affected. Russia’s state-owned gas exporter Gazprom said it would boost natural-gas deliveries to Europe today, using two other routes through Belarus and one to Turkey. PGNiG, the Polish oil and gas company, said it was relying on Russian gas delivered via Belarus to compensate for the Ukrainian shortfall.
Since shipments to Ukraine were halted, supplies have already been boosted along the Yamal-Europe pipeline and the Beltransgaz system (both of which cross Belarus), as well as the Blue Stream link to Turkey.