KIEV, Ukraine, Sept. 2 (UPI) -- Russia is called to the table to discuss natural gas issues with Ukrainian and European leaders, a member of the European Commission said Friday.
Former Soviet republics like Lithuania are dependent on a regional natural gas infrastructure network that's controlled in large part by Russian energy company Gazprom. Rows between Russia and Ukraine, through which most of the Soviet-era gas pipelines run, have threatened supplies to downstream consumers in Europe.
Maros Sefcovic, a leader on energy issues for the European Union, said with demand on pace to rise as winter approaches, it may be time for all parties to sit down at the negotiating table and discuss regional energy security.
"Russia as an exporter, Ukraine as a transit country and the EU as the main importer share a common interest of predictability," he said in a statement. "The trilateral format remains the most suitable for discussing gas supplies for the upcoming winter heating season."
Sefcovic made his comments Friday during a state visit to Ukraine. For Kiev, he said Ukraine needed to modify its economic policies so that all citizens could enjoy a higher standard of living. On energy, the government was lauded for strides made since the unbundling of national energy company Naftogaz.
Europe gets about a quarter of its gas needs met by Russia and most of that runs through Eastern European pipelines. The EU seeks to avert a repeat of disputes that prompted Russian gas exporter Gazprom to cut supplies in 2006 and 2009, leading to winter shortages across Europe.
In June, Gazprom Chairman Alexei Miller said it may be cheaper to send gas through a second string of pipelines planned for the Nord Stream network running through the Baltic Sea to Germany than through Ukraine. European leaders, however, have objected to expanding Nord Stream on antitrust grounds.