ECONOMY

EU is confident that Russian gas supplies won’t fall short this winter

BRUSSELS – A gas pricing deal this week between Belarus and Russia is positive and steps taken by EU countries should be enough to ensure there is sufficient gas in the bloc this winter, the European Union said on Thursday. A spokesman for the executive European Commission, Ferran Tarradellas Espuny, also told a news briefing he did not think a decision by Belarus to impose duty on Russian oil exports in transit through the country would affect EU supply security. The EU’s Gas Coordination Group gave a «positive» assessment on Thursday of a December 31 pricing deal between Russian gas monopoly Gazprom and Belarus outlined to it by the Belarus ambassador, a statement said. The group, chaired by the Commission and comprising EU states as well as industry and consumer representatives, also assessed steps by EU members to ensure stable gas supplies. «The general impression is that measures taken are adequate, but we have considered we have had a mild winter,» Tarradellas Espuny said. «However after the crisis between Belarus and Russia this winter, and last winter the crisis between Russia and Ukraine, all member states have emphasised the need for strong cooperation… for the supply of energy in general.» Tarradellas Espuny said it was the first time Belarus had taken part in the gas group meeting in Brussels, but Russia did not take part even though it had been invited. The Polish representative at Thursday’s meeting had said there was currently «nothing to worry about» over gas supplies, Tarradellas Espuny added. EU worries about Russia’s reliability as an energy supplier were raised in January last year when a pricing dispute between Moscow and Ukraine briefly disrupted gas supply to the bloc. The European Union obtains about a quarter of its gas from Russia and about 20 percent of this amount comes via Belarus. Tarradellas Espuny said the Commission did not expect the decision by Belarus on Wednesday to impose duty on Russian oil exports to affect either supply or price. «We expect that the differences between the two parties are going to permit consumers to expect oil supplies at the prices that have been previously contracted,» he said. Market watchers said the transit duty would not affect world oil prices or cause shortages but it was likely to cause short-term disruption to the supply chain as refiners in Poland and Germany looked for cheaper alternative supplies. Russia said on Thursday it did not expect the escalating trade row with Belarus to disrupt supplies to Europe. «There is no threat to deliveries,» Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.