Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

EYE ON AFRICA

Tunisia's Parliament votes on new Government

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

French court rules #burkini ban "clearly illegal"

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

Biden in Turkey, Colombia Peace Deal, Ethiopia Olympic Protest (part 2)

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

Earthquake in Italy, French Burkini Ruling (part 1)

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

The hidden secrets of Les Invalides

Read more

FOCUS

Pro-Opposition stronghold Port-Gentil feverishly awaits presidential elections

Read more

ENCORE!

Alexis Michalik: treading the boards in the footsteps of 'Edmond'

Read more

REPORTERS

Getting away with murder in DR Congo

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

'Why does Italy refuse to see the seismic risk?'

Read more

The stakes of the gas crisis

Latest update : 2008-03-09

The ongoing gas crisis pitting Russia against the Ukraine is a match for 'control of the Ukrainian pipeline network,' explains La Croix’s world affairs deputy editor Alain Guillemoles.

Ukraine and Gazprom have been locked in a struggle over gas since 2006. According to La Croix’s world affairs deputy editor Alain Guillemoles, the wrestling match between Russia and Ukraine will have direct implications for “control of the Ukrainian pipeline network”.

Gazprom has resumed gas deliveries to Ukraine after slashing them twice last week. What is at stake in the unrest over gas? Will the European Union have to face unexpected consequences if the crisis worsens further?  Author of ‘Gazprom, the new empire’, Alain Guillemoles brings some answers.


How would you explain the arm wrestle between Russia and Ukraine over the issue of gas?

That’s a long story, with a troublesome episode involving a messed-up divorce. Russia just couldn’t accept Ukraine’s breakaway and independence. Gas supplies are a powerful pressure instrument.
Ukraine depends entirely on Russia for its supplies of gas, and the Ukrainians are big energy consumers, mainly because of the poor insulation of their homes and their wide-range steel industry.
However, Russia itself is heavily dependent on Ukraine because 95% of its exports go through the country, on their way to Europe, the sole destination for Gazprom’s gas. Exports to China haven’t been launched yet.     
Gazprom has therefore been maneuvering for years to seize full control of Ukraine’s pipelines and the Russians are determined to use the political crisis between President Viktor Yushchenko and his Prime Minister Yulia Tymochenko to reach their goal.

Vladimir Putin and President Viktor Yushchenko came to an initial agreement on February 12, foreseeing a payment of the $600 million Ukrainian debt and a simplified delivery network. Is the deal moving forward?

What is at stake is control of the Ukrainian pipeline network rather than the country’s debt. Discussions over the Ukrainian corridor will therefore resume, but there are two main sticking points. Negotiators will discuss the transit fee Russians are to pay Ukraine and the role of RosUkrEnergo, the exclusive agent of gas transit, which has been quite evasive regarding its profit redistribution policy. Tymochenko wishes to dump RosUkrEnergo, Gazprom management is divided on the issue and Medvedev is inclined to pull it out of the system – but will he?

Is there a risk that EU countries will suffer new cutbacks because of this crisis as they did in January 2006?

There is no doubt that the risk is still there for the EU because the confrontation is so rough between Russia and Ukraine.
If restrictions had lasted longer in 2006, Ukraine would have been forced to request Europe’s assistance and the crisis would have taken an international spin.
Furthermore, Europe lacks a genuine power policy since certain countries favour their national guidelines rather than European goals. If the EU does not take action, Russia may impose its rules on the European market. Eyes are now turning towards France to watch how it will lead the issue during its European presidency in the second semester of 2008. Indeed, Paris pledged to make energy issues a clear priority.               

Date created : 2008-03-08

COMMENT(S)