Ukraine focus of EU energy summit

March 23, 2009 at 9:41 AM

BRUSSELS, March 23 (UPI) -- European officials Monday considered a multibillion-dollar package to upgrade the Ukrainian gas transit sector following a bitter gas row with Russia.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko said the Brussels conference on his national gas transit system is the positive result of diplomacy.

European customers get 20 percent of their natural gas from Russia. Nearly 80 percent of that volume transits through Ukrainian territory.

A January row between Kiev and Moscow prompted Russia to disrupt gas supplies, leaving Europe scrambling for natural gas.

Press officials for Yushchenko said the president sees the summit as an opportunity to court investors for the modernization of the Ukrainian gas transit system, Ukrinform reports.

Yushchenko "voices hopes that the international investment conference in Brussels will lay foundation for a practical implementation of various ideas and proposals," said presidential press secretary Iryna Vannykova.

A study for the European Commission found the Ukrainian transit system needs investments totaling $3.4 billion from 2009 to 2015 in order to rehabilitate the system.

"This year's gas dispute between Ukraine and Russia has only reconfirmed the crucial role of Ukraine in the EU's energy security," said EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs. "It has also underlined very clearly the need for ensuring safe, transparent and reliable transit through Ukraine for the stable supply of gas to the EU."

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