There is still no Russian gas flowing to Europe through Ukraine, even though both countries agreed on the price for this commodity on January 18, a European Commission spokesman, Johannes Laitenberger, announced on January 19. The Russian and Ukrainian negotiators should formally sign the contract on gas supplies on January 19, but the EU is still not 100 percent sure that the gas will start coming or that this situation will not be repeated.
EU countries were seriously hit by a dispute between Moscow and Kiev on the current price for gas and the amount of debt owed by Ukraine from last year, in which Russia reacted by halting all natural gas flowing to and through Ukraine. EU countries buy about one quarter of their gas from Russia and 80 percent of it is transported via Ukrainian pipelines.
The gas crisis forced Slovakia and Poland to restrict production in big industrial facilities to save gas supplies. In Bulgaria, thousands of households were left without heat. Bratislava and Sofia even considered restarting nuclear power plants that had been shut down. No one can be sure if this situation will be repeated. Western Europe, perhaps, will be better able to secure its gas supplies for the next winter but the countries currently hit hardest by the Russian-Ukrainian conflict remain vulnerable, according to the TASR newswire.
New storage capacities and terminals for liquefied natural gas have been constructed mainly in Western Europe. Although a similar situation occurred in 2006, only two of the seven central and eastern European countries which are completely dependent on Russian gas have built new reservoirs and storage tanks. The main problem is money and a lack of co-operation. Although signs of cooperation surfaced in the current crisis, EU countries generally have acted only in their own national interests, even though Europe should act as a unified market in similar crisis situation, TASR wrote.
19. Jan 2009 at 17:00