Europe, Ukraine have opposing natural gas ideas

April 29, 2013 at 6:24 AM

BRUSSELS, April 29 (UPI) -- EU members might not be on the same page as the Ukrainian government when it comes to natural gas, scholars said.

EU Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger is to meet Ukrainian officials and business representatives Friday at a natural gas roundtable in Brussels.

European markets get about 25 percent of their natural gas from Russia, though the majority of that runs through Ukraine's gas transit system.

Olga Shumylo-Tapiola, a visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe in Brussels, told online news magazine New Europe that Europe expects Ukraine to update its Soviet-era gas transit system.

"Ukrainians, when they think of EU engagement, they want support with the negotiations with Russia over gas price, full stop," she said.

Pricing disputes between Ukraine and Russia have harmed the Ukrainian economy and exposed vulnerabilities in the European energy market.

Balazs Jarabik, a researcher at the European Council on Foreign Relations, told New Europe that Ukraine's ambitions come with a certain degree of risk.

"The Russians can cut the gas for Ukraine without endangering Europe" by building pipeline networks that would sideline Ukraine completely, he said.

Diversification efforts have prompted Russia and Europe to each pursue their own efforts to build natural gas pipeline that avoid Ukraine.

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