Slovakia wants EU guarantee for any gas supply to Ukraine
Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico said Thursday he wants the European Union to guarantee that Ukraine will pay should Slovakia facilitate reverse gas flow from Europe.
“It’s clear that Ukraine is not able to pay its bills. Only a third party, like the European Union and European Commission, can guarantee that Slovakia will get paid if we help Ukraine,” Fico told reporters in Bratislava.
Earlier this month, Russia’s Gazprom announced it was raising the price of gas exports to Ukraine by more than a third, scrapping a discount amid soaring political tensions between the two countries.
Given the price hike and concerns that Russia will cut natural gas to Ukraine, Kiev has been trying to seal agreements with its western neighbours on gas deliveries.
As both an EU member and Ukraine neighbour, Slovakia is strategically located to facilitate the pumping of gas to Ukraine from western Europe.
But Bratislava is loath to upset Russia, which supplies almost all of its gas. Slovakia also profits from transit fees from Gazprom that uses the country’s pipelines to supply gas to Europe.
“We want to help Ukraine but at the same time we must seek a technical solution that won’t violate our own deal with Gazprom,” Fico said, adding that Slovakia wants to host four-way negotiations with the EU, Ukraine and Russia on the matter.
Ukraine now has to pay $485 dollars for 1,000 cubic metres of gas, the highest rate paid by any of Gazprom’s European clients.
Russia says Ukraine now owes it $2.2 billion for natural gas supplies and Gazprom has demanded that Kiev “take immediate measures” to settle the debt.
Russian President Vladimir Putin also sent a letter to EU leaders on Thursday, expressing “extreme concern” over the debt and warning that supplies to Europe may be affected.