EU very concerned about new gas crisis: Barroso

6th March 2009, Comments 0 comments

Recent comments from Russia’s Putin and Ukraine on potential gas crisis left the European Union concerned and worried.

BRUSSELS – The European Union is "very concerned" about the risk of a new gas crisis after recent comments from Ukraine and Russian Premier Vladimir Putin, EU Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso said Thursday.

"We are very concerned with the latest news coming from Ukraine and also comments coming from Prime Minister Putin," Barroso told a press conference with Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergey Stanishev.

A January dispute between Russia and Ukraine led to Russian gas supplies to Europe being severed for almost two weeks, triggering the EU's worst ever energy crisis.

"We have already ... expressed our strong condemnation of this kind of situation," Barroso told reporters.

"I think the credibility of Russia and Ukraine will of course be affected if we have another gas crisis," he added, standing next to the leaders of one of the countries worst-hit by the January gas shut-off.

The European Union has monitors in place to check on the flow of Russian gas through the key Ukraine pipeline, and Barroso said their numbers could be boosted if necessary.

Armed Ukrainian security service agents on Wednesday burst into the headquarters of the Ukrainian state gas firm Naftogaz to conduct a search, in a dramatic display of the country's internal tensions.

The raid came as Russia set a 8 March deadline for payment by Ukraine of a USD 360 million (EUR 284 million) debt for February.

Putin warned that failure to pay would lead to a halt in supplies to Ukraine and possibly European consumers.

But Ukraine's state gas firm Naftogaz said Thursday it had "paid 100 percent for the deliveries of Russian gas in February," a claim later confirmed by Russian energy giant Gazprom.

Stanishev, who had been talking in part with Barroso about ways to avoid a repetition of the gas crisis - though diversification of supply and better interconnections between EU nations - also decried the way Europe gets affected by a bilateral row between third parties.

"Such a situation when European countries are becoming hostages to a conflict between two countries is unacceptable," he said.

"Such behaviour is really severely harming their credibility," he added, going a step further than Barroso.

The European Union relies on Russia for almost a quarter of all the gas it consumes, notably for heating and for powering certain industrial activities.

Bulgaria, which is almost entirely dependent on Russian gas, put the direct losses from the January crisis at around 169 million leva (EUR 86 million).

AFP / Expatica

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