20th Jan 2022

EU likely to face one more week without gas

The EU has welcomed the idea of a gas mini-summit in Moscow this weekend. But Russian supplies are unlikely to resume before the meeting, while experts say it will take "several" more days for gas to reach the EU even if there is an accord.

The EU on Thursday (15 January) agreed to send energy commissioner Andris Piebalgs and Czech energy minister Martin Riman for a "high-level meeting" in Moscow on Saturday, if Russian and Ukrainian delegates are to be "fully mandated to find a lasting solution."

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  • Citizens in EU countries dependent on Russian gas may need to look for alternative heating sources for some more time (Photo: Wikipedia)

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday proposed holding the event, also inviting the leaders of any affected EU states.

Ukraine Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko swiftly agreed to the meeting. But late Thursday, the office of Ukraine President Viktor Yushchenko said it should take place in Brussels or Prague - the capital of the current EU presidency.

"It is illogical hold it in a capital of one of the parties to the gas conflict," his office said.

Whether the event takes place here or there, the EU is worried Russian gas flows are unlikely to restart before the talks, with Brussels, London and Paris all urging Moscow and Kiev to open taps right away.

"The meeting should not be used as an excuse for further delays. All this has gone on for too long," European Commission spokesman Johannes Laitenberger said.

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, who visited Kiev and Moscow on Wednesday to talk about the crisis, said he was pessimistic gas deliveries would be restored any time soon.

"That's practically impossible," he told reporters in Bratislava, AP reports.

If the Moscow talks see a breakthrough and normal flows are resumed on 18 January, it would still take well into the middle of next week before the EU sees the gas, experts say, scotching previous Ukrainian estimates of a`36-hour technical lag.

"Operational challenges on the Russian and Ukrainian gas transportation system due to the cease of Russian gas deliveries on to Ukraine on 1 January ...are of an unprecedented magnitude," the head of the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT) secretariat, George Verberg, said on Thursday.

"The public should have a realistic view that the overall operation is likely to take several days."

The ECT is a 1994 multilateral transit treaty designed to protect Western investors in post-Soviet countries.

The gas deadlock persisted on Thursday, as Russia once again offered to send a small volume of gas to the EU using a Ukraine pipeline route that would force Kiev to cut off millions of domestic clients.

A team of EU monitors in place in Russia and Ukraine since the weekend have voiced sympathy with Ukraine over the problematic Russian choice of transit route.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is to meet Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in Berlin on Friday, on Thursday warned Russia risks damaging EU relations if the crisis drags out.

"I believe there is a danger that Russia will lose a chunk of its credibility if there is a long interruption of gas deliveries," she said.

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