Thursday

23rd Feb 2017

Gas war escalates as Russia halves Slovakia supplies

Russia has cut gas deliveries to Slovakia by half in a bad sign for EU efforts to broker a deal on Ukraine.

Prime minister Robert Fico told press after a cabinet meeting in Bratislava on Wednesday (1 October) that the drop came without any warning.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

He said his national distributor, SPP, can still "fulfill its commitments" on “reverse flow” to Ukraine and supply customers in Slovakia and the Czech Republic by buying extra volumes on the spot market.

But he criticised Russia, saying: "Gas has become a tool in a political fight … This isn't about a lack of gas, it’s about playing with gas supplies as an instrument of political posturing”.

He said he does not expect a gas crisis this winter because it would cause too much “economic damage on both sides”.

But he called for EU help in dealing with Moscow.

“We want to co-ordinate this situation with the European Commission … Slovakia will need co-operation in the European sphere”.

Slovakia, Hungary, and Poland started selling Russian gas back to Ukraine after Russia cut off its neighbour in a price dispute in June. But Hungary also cut off Ukraine after the CEO of Russian gas firm Gazprom visited Budapest last week.

The Slovak crunch comes ahead of meetings between EU officials, Russia, and Ukraine on Thursday and Friday.

The EU commission has put forward a deal for Ukraine to pay Russia $3.1 billion of debt and to pre-pay for gas month by month at above market prices until April in return for 5 billion cubic metres (bcm).

If there is no agreement Ukraine won’t be able to supply EU transit customers as normal.

But Andriy Kobolyev, the CEO of Ukraine’s national distributor, Naftogaz, told German daily Handelsblatt on Wednesday that without reverse flow he will need another 5 bcm from Russia to keep EU supplies going.

He also criticised the EU for doing nothing to make Hungary keep its promise.

“Two EU companies, including a German one, have contracts with Hungary for gas delivery from there to Ukraine. But these are now simply stopped. Where is European solidarity?” he said.

German chancellor Angela Merkel and EU commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso have also urged Russia not to escalate the gas war.

Merkel called Vladimir Putin on Wednesday, while Barroso published a personal letter to the Russian leader.

For his part, former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who now works for Gazprom, in a speech in Rostock on the Baltic Sea coast the same day said the EU should take back economic sanctions to improve the situation.

He said the Russia sanctions are “wrong … I want to say that loud and clear”.

But Germany’s ambassador to the US, Peter Wittig, speaking at a think tank in Washington on Monday, indicated that Schroeder is out of touch with feeling in Berlin.

Wittig said that Putin “broke trust” and “renounced … [the] partnership that we had” by putting troops in Ukraine.

Ukraine wary of EU's Russia gas deal

The EU is keen for Ukraine to accept a winter deal on Russian gas, but Ukraine is wary of the terms and of broader EU-Russia energy ties.

Russian gas less mighty than it looks, EU says

A Russian gas cut-off would have a “substantial impact”, but even the most vulnerable countries - Bulgaria, Estonia, and Finland - could get through the winter.

Interview

The Armenia-Azerbaijan war: A refugee's story

The lynching of a woman in the Soviet Union in 1988 gives insight into why reconciliation remains so hard in the 30-year long war on Europe's eastern fringe.

News in Brief

  1. WTO says Russian pork ban was illegal
  2. Belgian nuclear plant made 'significant progress' on safety
  3. Report: Commission gauging EU support for Poland sanctions
  4. Irish PM expected to quit amid police scandal
  5. After Brexit vote, 100,000 UK firms registered in Ireland
  6. Bayrou to support Macron in French presidential election
  7. British by-election tests Ukip strength after Brexit
  8. Romanian parliament buries controversial corruption decree

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. QS World MBA TourMeet with Leading International Business Schools in Paris on March 4th
  2. Malta EU 2017Economic Governance: Agreement Reached on Structural Reform Support Programme for Member States
  3. Socialists & DemocratsWomen Have to Work Ten Years Longer to Match Lifetime Earnings of Men
  4. Counter BalanceTrans-Adriatic Pipeline Is a Major Risk for Banks, Warns New Analysis
  5. Martens CentreEU and US Migration Policies Compared: Join the Debate on February 28th
  6. Swedish EnterprisesTechnology and Data Flows - Shaping the Society of Tomorrow
  7. UNICEFNearly 1.4 Million Children at Risk of Death as Famine Looms Across Africa and Yemen
  8. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Fees: Council Reaches Agreement on Wholesale Caps
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Innovation House Opens in New York to Help Startups Access US Market
  10. Centre Maurits CoppietersMinorities and Migrations
  11. Salzburg Global SeminarThe Child in the City: Health, Parks and Play
  12. UNICEFNumber of Ukrainian Children Needing Aid Nearly Doubles to 1 Million Over the Past Year