EU Energy Commissioner Opposes Breaking Gas Ties with Russia
EU Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger has suggested he sees no risk of Russian gas supplies to Europe being affected by potential sanctions over the events in Ukraine.
In a Sunday interview for German newspaper Bild am Sonntag, he says that he opposes the scenario of restricting or cutting gas ties with Russia over the next few years, adding that the EU must continue attempts at diversifying its energy sources.
Asked whether the crisis in Ukraine calls for a re-evaluation of Germany's energy policy, Oettinger says he expects the summit of EU leaders in June to deliver answers as regards the EU's energy strategy for the next decades. He explains that the short-term goal is to avoid a gas crisis and guarantee the security of supply for the next winter.
He declares that the numerous talks with Gazprom, a company controlling approximately 25% of the European gas market, have left him with the impression that the Russian energy giant will keep its contractual obligations as regards gas supplies.
Oettinger claims that agreement has been reached that in the case of potential economic sanctions, be they on the part of the EU or Russia, the gas sector will not be a priority sphere.
He emphasizes that the EU has done a lot over the past few years to guard against gas supply disruptions, including new pipelines between EU member states and increased storage capacities.
The EU Energy Commissioner notes, however, that unless Kiev is put into a position which allows it to settle gas bills of over USD 2 B, there is a risk of Russia cutting gas shipments to Ukraine.
Stressing that Ukraine is the most important transit country for Europe, Oettinger argues that such a measure could bring about a process which is difficult to control.
He goes on to say that Norway and Algiers are important sources of gas supplies, adding that the construction of the Southern Gas Corridor will provide a connection to the gas fields in Azerbaijan.
Oettinger informs that 30% of the EU's gas needs are covered from domestic production.
He also strongly advises Germany to open the door to shale gas exploration project.
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