EU to take measures against dependency on Russian gas

28/03/2014

The European Commission will present an energy plan in June.

By Linda Karadaku for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 28/03/14

photo

A construction worker stands in front of a section of Russia's South Stream pipeline near the village of Sajkas, 80 kilometres north of Serbian capital Belgrade on November 24th 2013. [AFP]

The European Union has decided to move quickly to reduce dependency on Russian gas after the events in Ukraine and Russia's annexation of the Crimean peninsula. Russia is the main supplier of gas and oil to Europe.

"The EU can decrease its dependence from Russia via further diversification of its suppliers, develop and further exploit renewables and alternative indigenous energy sources such as shale gas, boost LNG import from Qatar and the US, upgrade its own infrastructure so that energy can flow easily within the Internal Energy Market of the EU and develop Eastern Mediterranean gas fields," Nicole Bockstaller, press officer for energy policy in the Office of the EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger, told SETimes.

It can also increase its effort regarding energy efficiency, as fewer resources will have to be imported if more energy is saved.

The European Commission is to present a comprehensive plan by June for the reduction of EU energy dependence, including the diversification of its energy supply and further ways to develop routes through a southern corridor of Eastern Europe and from North America.

EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy said the Union will discuss an energy security framework in its top-level meeting in June.

"Europe is stepping up a gear … to reduce energy dependency, especially from Russia, by reducing our energy demand with more energy efficiency, by diversifying our supply routes to and within Europe and expanding energy sources, in particular, renewables," Van Rompuy said.

Ukraine is a transit country for Russian energy consumed in the EU and Russia's supplies to the EU currently total about one-third of the EU's energy needs. That makes some 53 percent of Russia's annual gas exports, equal to about 17 billion euros per year.

"We should be looking at long-term energy diversification, security and resilience right across Europe, and that is something which we will enthusiastically pursue," British Prime Minister David Cameron said, according to AFP. "Russia needs Europe more than EU needs Russia."

For a number of countries such as Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Finland and the Baltic states, Russia's state-controlled gas company Gazprom is the sole provider.

Otilia Nutu, an energy specialist at ExpertForum, a leading Romanian think tank, noted that Romania is 25 to 30 percent dependent on Gazprom's gas, but has reserves which, at the current rate of consumption, can last up to 15 years.

"Romania's gas market is about to liberalise and that means higher prices which leads to lower consumption. Lower consumption coupled with the competition between the new players in the market once liberalised means a lower dependency on imports," Nutu told SETimes.

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Barbora Jaksova, a communication officer for the Energy Community Secretariat that focuses on gas supplies for Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia and Ukraine, said its member countries could benefit from EU measures to diversify supply routes, as many of its members are strongly dependent on Russian gas.

"Pipelines to the EU, from countries like Azerbaijan, have the potential to also enhance the development of gas markets and security of supply in the Southeast Europe region," Jaksova told SETimes.

Correspondent Paul Ciociou in Bucharest contributed to this report.

What steps should Southeast Europe and the EU take to reduce dependency on Russian gas? Add your thoughts in the comment space below.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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