European Commission Vice President for Energy Union Maroš Šefčovič at a panel on geopolitics and energy during the TATRA Summit, Bratislava, Slovakia, October 27 – 30, 2016. Šefčovic told Kostis Geropoulos – New Europe in an interview on Oct. 28 that the Commission is in close contact with Ukraine and Russia regarding gas supplies this coming winter.
The European Union wants Russian gas monopoly Gazprom and Ukraine’s Naftogaz to respect the political arrangement brokered by the EU last year to get through this coming winter, European Commission Vice President for Energy Union Maroš Šefčovič told New Europe in the interview given on the margins of the Tatra Summit in Bratislava.
The European Commission is in close contact with Kiev, monitoring the gas levels in the gas storages in Ukraine. “They’re a bit lower than the last year, but at the same time we have seen that consumption in Ukraine was much lower than the last year,” Commissioner Maroš Šefčovič said on October 28.
“Currently, as far as I know, the reverse flows from Slovakia, Poland and Hungary are I think used in full capacity and what we need is to complete the picture for the next winter would be preferably the same arrangement as we had last year with Winter Protocol signed between Russia, Ukraine and we facilitate to negotiate and the understanding how also the agreement between Naftogaz and Gazprom would respect that political arrangement which we achieved already last year,” he said.
Brussels wants to Ukraine to remain an important gas transit country to Europe post 2019, Šefčovič said, referring to the 10-year gas transit contract between Russia and Ukraine that will expire in 2019. After that, Gazprom has indicated that it wants to withdraw from the Ukrainian gas transit system (GTS).
Šefčovič was also skeptical regarding the economic feasibility of Nord Stream 2 and Turkish Stream. He added that the first line of Turkish Stream is a bilateral issue between Ankara and Moscow but additional lines that would transport natural gas via Greece to Italy and the rest of Europe would have to respect EU laws.
The European Commission Vice President told New Europe that he explained to Russia’s Energy Minister Alexander Novak during the World Energy Congress in Istanbul “how strategically important it is politically and from the point of energy security to have the transit route through Ukraine preserved also in the post-2019 period”.
Kostis Geropoulos: Do you think that we’re not going to see another gas crisis with Ukraine and things will work out with Russia?
Maroš Šefčovič: We’re in close contacts with Ukrainians and, of course, we monitor together with our Ukrainian friends the gas levels in the gas storages in Ukraine. They’re a bit lower than the last year, but at the same time we have seen that consumption in Ukraine was much lower than the last year.
What I see as very important is the fact that we quite successfully concluded very difficult negotiations between the World Bank and the EIB (European Investment Bank) and I really want to thank both the institutions for being so flexible because it helped us to create special financial facility for 500 million dollars that Ukraine can use for the gas purchase, if needed.
And we still 150 million left from last year’s EBRD Revolving Fund, which we could use as well. So the important thing is that we have the financial resources if Ukraine would need it to buy additional gas.
Currently, as far as I know, the reverse flows from Slovakia and Poland are used in full capacity and what we need is to complete the picture for the next winter would be preferably the same arrangement as we had last year with winter protocol signed between Russia, Ukraine and we facilitate to negotiate and the understanding how also the agreement between Naftogaz and Gazprom would respect that political arrangement which we achieved already last year.
I discussed already with the Russian partners and we will continue this discussion. So far, I got strong reassurance from the Russian side that whatever Ukraine would need in the field of gas deliver, if prepaid, Russia would deliver. But, of course, I understand that also the Ukrainian side wants to have certain guarantees that would be the case and therefore we will continue talks with both parties. I believe that we will be able based on that experience from the last year to overcome any difficulties, which might arise eventually. But I don’t see them at this stage.
KG: Have you shared with Minister Novak concerns that Nord Stream 2 or Turkish Stream may completely bypass Ukraine in the future?
MS: We only had short meeting with Minister Novak in Istanbul, more or less agreeing that we need to have more time to go over in greater detail over this issue. I explained to him how strategically important it is politically and from the point of energy security to have the transit route through Ukraine preserved also in the post-2019 period. I think the Russian side knows how strong the position of the EU on this is. But, of course, this is a matter which I’m sure will be further discussed because it’s not an issue that can be resolved in one or several meeting. Therefore, it’s a topic that we discuss quite regularly.
KG: So your position on Nord Stream 2 or Turkish Stream has not changes if it abides by EU law…
MS: Turkish Stream, I mean if it goes to the pipeline to be built to supply Turkey. It’s a bilateral issue between these two countries. Turkey is not yet a EU member state and therefore we have a very good dialogue with Turkey but it’s their decision. Obviously if it comes to some additional lines there, of course…
KG: Through IGI Poseidon…
MS: A discussion must be held and EU law will have to apply. But I think that it’s also necessary to have – we are offering such a discussion to all our potential suppliers and to all the companies – to have a little bit forward-looking discussion what’s the overall consumption in Europe, what are our prospects, what are our forecasts, what we see as the most cost-efficient way how to supply the gas, not to limit the competition but simply to avoid the situation that a lot of money is invested and then you can end up with stranded assets. And that’s I think that is what currently penetrating more and more in the deliberations in the economic players in this field.
Initially published by New Europe.
Photo Credit @ Tatra Summit