January 9, 2009
It is a very cold winter in Central Europe and New Year’s Eve has a traditional ceremony. Russia cuts off the gas supplies, Ukraine says it is not taking away anything from what amount transported through her territory to European buyers and the EU is trying to help striking a new price deal.
When I write this blogpost the weather forecast for this week goes down to -18C in Hungary, so switching off the gas heating is not really an option. Cental Europe is a cold place in the winter, gas is the dominant source of energy, and you can only buy it from Russia. Russia has only one company which sells the stuff, Gazprom. Here is how the story is seen from New York City. Gazprom and Russia behaves very rationally, and so is Ukraine when it tries to drag the EU into the problem. It looks from the other side of the Atlantic that Europe has done nothing since the last cold winter, which was 2006. Last year we had to worry about the global warmig – Hungarian January average temperature was 6,2C above the average – but now we are stuck in the cold again.
Ukraine has informed Budapest that it will cut the supply of Russian gas to Hungary by eight million cubic metres to 30 m cubic metres till it reaches an agreement with Russia. Slovakia relies on Russia for all of its gas needs, while Hungary gets 65 per cent and Poland 46 per cent of its gas – all three members states of the EU as well as Slovakia are effected. Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina also get some of their natural gas supply through Hungary from Ukraine and Russia.
Update: Gazprom has cut European gas export to the third of its original volume. Slovakia is not passing any gas to Western Europe, in return Austria is not exporting gas to Hungary anymore. There is a gas shortage in Bulgaria and Romania, too. Although I do not think that this pressure will last very long – oil prices are low and fossil fuels are almost the only source of revenue for the Russian government: This is Europe under pressure!
Link: Joint fact-finding mission of the Presidency and the Commission held talks with members of Ukrainian government, top officials of Presidential office and representatives of Gas industry on Monday and Tuesday.