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Russia, EU sign energy early warning pact

16 November 2009, 19:07 CET
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Russia, EU sign energy early warning pact

Sergei Shmatko, Russian Minister for Energy )L) with Andris Piebalgs - Photo EC

(MOSCOW) - Russia and the EU on Monday signed an energy early warning agreement they said would help avert sudden disruption of supply amid growing unease in Europe over possible cuts in gas supplies this winter.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin separately said that Russia and Slovakia were in talks on possible establishment of a gas storage and distribution facility in Slovakia.

Under the agreement signed in Moscow, Russia and the EU will notify each other of any likely disruption to supplies of oil, gas or electricity and jointly work to find a solution, the European Commission said in a statement.

Third parties will be allowed to participate in the arrangement, the Commission said.

"An energy crisis like the one the EU suffered in January is harmful for supply, transit and consuming countries alike," said EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs.

"We need to do everything necessary to make sure that such a situation never happens again," said Piebalgs, who signed the deal with Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko.

"The document does not contain any sanctions against third parties but foresees coordinated joint actions to prevent a stoppage of supplies," Shmatko said in a statement.

The agreement itself will be unveiled at the EU-Russia summit in Stockholm on Wednesday, said the Russian energy ministry spokesman Pavel Rodionov.

Putin has warned repeatedly in recent weeks that Ukraine, which has been badly hit by the global economic crisis, could have trouble paying its gas bills to Moscow.

He said Russia would again turn off the taps if it believed Ukraine was siphoning Russian gas from pipelines meant for export to other European customers.

Putin, speaking to journalists after meeting his Slovak counterpart, Robert Fico, said Russian gas giant Gazprom might create a joint venture to distribute natural gas in Slovakia.

"We discussed the possibility," Putin said.

Fico concurred, adding: "There are no barriers to creating this joint venture."

The Slovak prime minister said Putin had assured him that Russia would provide sufficient warning ahead of time in the event of any expected disruption to Russian energy supply.

In January a bitter price dispute between the two ex-Soviet neighbours led to a cut-off of Russian gas to more than a dozen countries in Europe, including Slovakia, for around two weeks.

Separately, Shmatko told reporters that Moscow and Kiev were working on an agreement that would allow Russia to help Ukraine upgrade its ageing gas pipeline network.

"The new intergovernmental agreement is intended for long-term prospects," Shmatko said in comments confirmed by his spokeswoman Irina Yesipova.

In March, Ukraine signed an agreement with the European Commission to pave the way for much-needed foreign investment in its gas pipeline network, drawing immediate fire from Russia, which said that as a gas supplier it could not be excluded from such deals.

EU - Russia Summit

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