The FINANCIAL — According to RIA Novosti, the European Commission is to hold an extraordinary session of the EU Gas Coordination Group in Brussels on January 19 to discuss energy supplies in the wake of the Russian-Ukraine gas dispute.
The meeting will not be attended by Russian or Ukrainian representatives, said EC spokesman Ferran Tarradellas Espuny, as the session is designed to evaluate "the situation of gas deliveries to EU member states."
The EC welcomed an agreement reached in Moscow on January 18 between Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Yulia Tymoshenko that should make it possible to restart gas supplies to Europe. However, the organization also said that a "test" of Russia's reliability of a gas supplier and of Ukraine's as a transit-country would be their willingness to promptly resume supplies to Europe.
The deal is expected to be signed on January 19. Under the agreement, Ukraine will enjoy in 2009 a 20% discount on prices that European consumers pay for Russian gas, while Kiev will not increase the current transit fees. Ukraine and Russia also agreed not to use intermediaries in gas trading.
Some confusion remains as to whether or not the deal has been backed by Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko. However, Tymoshenko is due to return to Moscow on January 19 to sign the agreement with Putin.
Czech Industry Minister Martin Riman, whose country holds the EU presidency, said, "We remain realistic. Over the past few days we have seen several similarly hopeful moments. The only thing that counts for the EU is the resumption of gas supplies. For the time being it is not clear when this resumption will take place."
Russia suspended supplies to Ukraine on January 1 after the former Soviet neighbors failed to agree on debt and prices for 2009. A week later, Gazprom cut off gas supplies to the EU, saying Ukraine was stealing gas intended for European consumers.
Following mediation by the EU, the two sides agreed to resume supplies, but deliveries did not restart, with each side blaming the other for the lack of progress. Almost 20 countries in Europe have been affected by the dispute. The EU has called the cut in supplies "completely unacceptable."