EU threatens legal action amid gas standoff

EU Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso said Brussels would take the gas dispute to justice if both Russia and Ukraine fail to find a solution on resuming the transit of gas to Europe as soon as possible.


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AFP - EU Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso on Wednesday said European companies should take legal action if the flow of Russian gas to Europe is not urgently resumed.

"The current situation is unacceptable and incredible," Barroso told the European Parliament.

"Unacceptable as EU consumers in some member states are still without gas after one week without supply.

"Incredible because we remain in this situation the day after an important agreement is signed at senior level with assurance from Russia and Ukraine leaders that they will implement the agreement and let the gas flow," he said.

If a deal signed by all parties for the resumption of the flow of Russian gas through Ukraine is not honoured "as a matter of urgency, the commission will advise European companies to take this matter to the courts," he added.

"If the agreement is not honoured it means that Russian and Ukraine can no longer be considered reliable partners for the European Union in matters of energy supply," he stressed.

Hungarian gas importer Emfesz is already taking action.

On Monday, it filed a suit against Ukrainian company Naftogaz over the halt of gas supplies and also lodged a complaint against Ukraine with the European Commission.

Emfesz is Hungary's second largest gas importer, importing some three billion cubic metres annually, equivalent to around 20 percent of the country's total consumption of 15 billion cubic metres.

Emfesz slammed Naftogaz, Ukraine's national gas group, for "treating the gas as if it were its own property" and not ensuring its delivery to Hungary via Ukraine.

Russia cut supplies of European gas via Ukraine a week ago following a payments dispute between Naftogaz and Russian gas supplier Gazprom.

Russia resumed natural gas supplies on Tuesday after international experts were placed along the pipeline route through Ukraine under an agreement reached with the EU, only to shut them off again several hours later.

Gazprom accused Ukraine of blocking the gas, while Ukraine countered that the Russian energy giant had deliberately routed the gas in a way that made it impossible for Ukraine to pump it on to European consumers.

Barroso avoided apportioning blame.

"Without judging intentions, there is an objective fact: Russia and Ukraine are showing they are incapable of delivering on their commitment to some member states," he said.

As hundreds of thousands of Europeans begin a second week with little or no heat in their homes, offices or schools, Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergey Stanishev and Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico were due in Moscow Wednesday to meet with their Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on the gas crisis.

Bulgaria and Slovakia are among those to have been badly hit by the gas crisis, which has continued despite EU efforts to broker a solution.

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