BRUSSELS, Nov. 17 (UPI) -- A natural gas shortage could be in the offing for European Union countries, despite a deal with Russia to prevent sudden energy cutoffs, a Slovak official says.
At a bilateral meeting with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico said he couldn't get assurances that a gas crisis such as the one that occurred early this year wouldn't occur again, EUObserver.com reported Tuesday.
"From what I have heard today it seems that there will be enormous problems between Russia and Ukraine as Kiev is not capable of paying," Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico said.
Fico's warning, to be passed along to the European Union president and other organization officials at the EU headquarters in Brussels, comes as the organization and Russia signed a new energy agreement that includes a notification of any oil, gas or electricity supply interruption, an exchange of assessments and consultations to exit any emergency situation, officials said.
"I am confident that the implementation of this mechanism will be a powerful tool to prevent the transit and export of energy to the EU being reduced or cut off," the organization's energy commissioner, Andris Piebalgs, said.
Negotiations between the EU and Russia lasted for more than two years, EUObserver.com reported. Before the talks, European Union members were caught in disputes between Russia and two countries -- Ukraine and Belarus -- vital for Russian gas to reach the European market in in January 2006 and 2007.