EU confident of winter gas deal despite Russia row

16th October 2014, Comments 0 comments

The European Union hopes a deal can be reached with Russia and Ukraine at talks next week to avoid gas shortages this winter, energy commissioner Guenter Oettinger said on Thursday.

Several hours after Oettinger spoke, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned of "major transit risks" to European gas supplies this winter unless Ukraine resolves a dispute with Moscow.

Oettinger announced that the latest round of talks between Russia, Ukraine and the EU scheduled next Tuesday would now take place in Brussels, not Berlin as planned, and that he would travel to Kiev on Monday.

Moscow cut off gas shipments to Kiev in June amid violence between pro-Kremlin rebels and Ukrainian government forces, and has threatened to block the EU too if countries deliver gas to Ukraine.

"A deal is achievable, thanks to the preparatory work and the will of each party," Oettinger said of next week's talks.

The German was unveiling the results of energy "stress tests" to show how the EU would cope if Russia, the 28-nation bloc's biggest gas supplier, disrupts supplies over tensions with Ukraine.

The proposal on the table would see cash-strapped Kiev settle 3.1 billion dollars (2.4 billion euros) of unpaid bills with Russian state gas giant Gazprom, with two billion dollars paid before the end of October, in exchange for a resumption of supplies.

Ukrainian pipelines carrying Russian gas account for about 15 percent of all gas imported by Europe -- which is reliant on Russia for about a third of its outside supplies.

"We are trying to bring together a financial package to cover part of Gazprom's unpaid bills and finance advance purchases," Oettinger.

Oettinger said the stress tests, which were based on the scenario of a six-month halt in supplies from Russia, showed supplies for EU nations could be guaranteed, with the bloc's reserve capacity currently 90 percent full.

But eastern European nations, which are especially dependent on Russian gas, could lose up to 60 percent of their supplies, he said, adding: "This means that households might have to do without heating," the European Commission said.

Ten EU nations are completely dependent on Russia for gas, Oettinger said.

Putin later warned that supplies would be at risk this winter unless Ukraine resolves a gas dispute with Moscow.

"There will be no crises through a fault of Russian participants of energy cooperation in Europe," Putin said on a visit to EU aspirant Serbia.

"But there are major transit risks."

© 2014 AFP

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