No cut-off risk yet of gas supplies to Europe: Brussels (Lead)

January 5th, 2009 - 10:11 pm ICT by IANS  

Brussels, Jan 5 (DPA) European Union (EU) consumers face no risk at present of having their gas cut off because of the row between Russia and Ukraine, but it is urgent to end the dispute before EU stocks run low, a spokesman for the bloc’s executive said Monday.The latest information from EU member states “shows that consumers are unaffected” by the decision by Russian monopolist Gazprom to cut supplies to Ukraine, and there is “no immediate danger to supplies to European citizens”, European Commission spokesman Ferran Tarradellas told journalists in Brussels.

Nonetheless, the commission “calls for an urgent solution to the dispute and an immediate resumption of supplies”, he said.

Russia is the EU’s largest single supplier of natural gas, and 80 percent of its deliveries to the EU pass through Ukraine. When Gazprom shut off supplies to Ukraine Thursday in a row over contracts, each side accused the other of putting EU clients at risk.

A near-identical dispute in 2006 led to sudden gas shortages across much of Europe.

So far, only Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and Poland have reported any fluctuations in gas supplies reaching them from Ukraine, and those problems have largely been solved, Tarradellas said.

Moreover, he said Europe’s gas storage facilities are currently filled to between 70 and 90 percent capacity, enabling them to compensate for short-term supply reductions with relative ease.

“We are confident that there will be no problems of supply in the coming weeks for end users in Europe,” he said.

However, with meteorologists predicting plunging temperatures later in the week, the EU Monday sent a diplomatic mission to Ukraine to urge both sides to return to the negotiating table.

The EU is “exercising important pressure, but (Russia and Ukraine) have to solve their bilateral issues. The fact-finding mission is another method to put pressure on to reach agreement once and for all on this problem which has repeated over the last five years”, Tarradellas said.

EU officials are set to discuss the problem Monday afternoon, and EU energy experts are due to meet in Brussels Friday. Russian and Ukrainian officials are also set to attend the Friday meeting.

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