Russian gas row: EU wants supply contracts to be honoured

22nd June 2010, Comments 0 comments

The EU Commission on Tuesday called on Belarus and Moscow to respect their "contractual obligations" after a payments row between them threatened Russian natural gas supplies to Europe.

"We expect the gas flow to the EU will not be affected and we expect contractual obligations to be fulfilled," said Marlene Holzner, EU Commission spokeswoman on energy.

"We continue to monitor the situation and are in close contact with the Russian Federation and Belarus," she added.

Holzner said that 6.25 percent of Europe's natural gas consumption was pumped through the Belarus pipeline affected, with Lithuania dependent upon the flow while Germany and Poland use it mainly to top up their reserves.

The EU Commission assurances came as Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko ordered the shutdown of the transit of Russian gas to Europe after Russia cut supplies to his country by a third in a debt dispute.

Russia earlier announced that it was reducing supplies to Belarus by 30 percent of normal daily volume after Minsk had taken no steps to resolve a debt to Gazprom of nearly 200 million dollars (163 million euros).

Belarus for its part says Gazprom owes it more than 200 million dollars in transit fees.

The EU spokeswoman said she had received no information of supply problems from member states.

She added that, if the Belarus tap was closed, Moscow could send that gas to Europe via other pipelines, for example increasing the flows through Ukraine, through where most of Russia's gas to Europe transits.

The Russian authorities had already mentioned this possibility, she added.

"That's what the Russian side told us, that's also what we expect," Holzner said,

Russian gas giant Gazprom "has contracts with EU companies so in case there's a problem we really expect them to stick to their promises and to their contracts and do it via Ukraine," she underlined.

A gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine in January 2009 led to supplies being turned off to several EU states in the midst of a bitterly cold winter.

A quarter of the gas consumed in the EU comes from Russia.

© 2010 AFP

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