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EU hopes for increased gas deliveries from Russia

The European Union hopes Russia will increase gas deliveries and that energy supplies from Russia will be stable, the EU energy commissioner said on Tuesday.

Speaking at the International Energy Week forum in Moscow, Andris Piebalgs said that in 2005 Russia supplied the EU with 23% of its gas, or 43% of the EU’s imports, and with 24% of its oil, or 33% of EU imports, adding that the figures testify to the fact that Russia and the EU have a mutual dependence.

In August, the EU had intended to convene a group of government experts and representatives of fuel producers and consumers from EU member states to discuss Russian energy supply reliability, shortly after Gazprom threatened to cut its natural gas deliveries to Belarus by 45% over the country’s outstanding debt. However, Minsk agreed to Gazprom’s demands at the last minute, drawing on government reserves to pay the debt in full.

Gazprom’s threat had sparked fears that Belarus could tap gas from pipelines transiting Russian gas to Europe in a replay of a bitter price dispute with Ukraine in early 2006, which affected supplies to European consumers. The dispute raised concerns in Europe over excessive dependence on Gazprom as a supplier. Piebalgs also told journalists there are no technical barriers for the synchronization of energy systems. He said European and Russian experts have been working on a feasibility study for such a move since 2003. The study will conclude in 2009. Energy system synchronization will make possible the import and export of electric power between Russia and Europe.

Piebalgs also praised cooperation in other spheres, saying he welcomes Russian energy giant Gazprom’s decision to involve Total in the development of the Shtokman gas field in the Arctic. Total will own 25% of a special company established to implement the first stage of Shtokman exploration, which envisions production of 23.7 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually. Piebalgs called the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline important, noting the importance of building the Nord Stream gas pipeline to run from Russia to Europe along the Baltic seabed, bypassing Belarus and Poland. The EU energy commissioner said dialogue between Russia and the EU should be developed in other directions as well. (