RUSSIA WILL CONTINUE
Russian natural gas deliveries to Europe should continue uninterrupted in June as commercial disputes between Russia and Ukraine can be resolved in short order, Europe's commissioner for energy said on Tuesday.
"I'm quite optimistic we can solve all open questions [regarding Ukraine and Russian gas to Europe] in the next days," Günther Oettinger said in Prague after meeting with the Czech foreign minister.
Russia has threatened to halt European Union-bound gas flows through Ukraine due to its failure to pay for deliveries between November and May. The stoppage could be averted however by a compromise solution in which Ukraine pays part of its outstanding bill as a show of good faith while it negotiates a new price for future deliveries.
The future price should be closer to the market price that Russia's OAO Gazprom charges its EU customers, he said.
To limit the risk to EU energy security, Mr. Oettinger said the bloc and member states should bolster gas storage facilities, north-south pipeline interconnections and reverse-flow systems.
Such steps would create an integrated market that can deliver liquefied natural gas to landlocked states, eliminating the risk of gas flow-disruptions due to political risk outside the EU.
Mr. Oettinger also said that the European Union would discuss the energy union proposed by Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk at its June summit. That plan would provide "a common external approach" to strengthen the bloc's position when negotiating with Russia, he said.
Mr. Tusk's proposal that the EU create a new authority to purchase gas for the entire bloc from Russia meets five of six EU policy goals, Mr. Oettinger said.
However the concept of a new pan-European institution for purchasing commodities needs further review for compliance with existing legislation, he added.
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