EU proposes new Ukraine-Russian gas talks
Brussels said Thursday it has invited Russia and Ukraine to hold new EU-brokered talks in Berlin on September 20 in a bid to end their dispute over gas deliveries.
Russia in mid-June cut supplies to Ukraine, demanding the new pro-Western government in Kiev pay up front for any new deliveries after it ran up an unpaid bill of $5.3 billion (4.1 billion euros).
That decision heightened concerns that Europe, which gets about a third of its gas from Russia of which about a half transits via Ukraine, could be badly affected by the dispute this winter.
Marlene Holzner, spokeswoman for EU Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger, told a press briefing that the European Commission has proposed new talks on the "overall situation on the gas dispute".
"We have proposed a date for a trilateral meeting between the Russian partners, the Ukrainian partners and us and that will be the 20th of September in Berlin," she said.
The Russian energy ministry confirmed it had received an offer from the European Commission for three-way talks on September 20 in Berlin but that "the date and place of the meeting" remained under discussion.
Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak warned last month that there was a high risk of disruption to Russian gas supplies to Europe this winter as international tensions mounted over the Ukraine crisis.
Poland's PGNiG on Thursday said its gas deliveries from Russia's Gazprom had now been cut by half, adding it did not know whether the cause was technical or commercial.
Gazprom has rejected the Polish claim as "incorrect" saying deliveries had remained constant.
Holzner said the Polish authorities had informed the Commission of the reduction in gas flows and that they were trying to determine the cause.
The EU planned to "hold talks" with the Polish authorities and the companies to "find out more and to know what the situation is", she said.
Ruled from Moscow in the Soviet era, Poland and other Eastern European states, now EU members, are acutely sensitive to what they see as Russian efforts to reassert its influence in the region.
Accordingly, several of them have been supplying Kiev with gas to make up for the Russian shortfall.
On Wednesday, Slovakia, one of those involved, reported a 10-percent cut in gas deliveries from Russia.
© 2014 AFP