Russian energy policy fell under the spotlight January 11 when MEPs held an unscheduled meeting to discuss the fallout of the gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine. The meeting was given extra urgency as the day before the government in Kiev had lost a no-confidence vote over their handling of the crisis. With about a quarter of the EU's gas needs coming from Russia, the need to diversify European sources and develop a common EU energy policy was a key theme of the debate, the European Parliament reports.

Parliament's delegation for relations with the Ukrainian parliament decided in the first days of the new year to have a special meeting when tensions between Russia and Ukraine over the price of gas rose to fever pitch and for a moment it seemed that EU countries might suffer a cut in gas supplies as well. Although a short-term agreement has been reached by Russia and Ukraine in the meantime, there was still ample food for discussion.

At the start of Wednesday's meeting, the EP delegation's chairman, Polish socialist MEP Marek Siwiec, raised the predicament in which Europe found itself: "As a result of the Russian-Ukrainian gas dispute, for the first time in history, gas supplies to many EU countries have been interrupted… The scale of the recent developments is truly unprecedented. This should be a wake-up call for all EU Member States." He went on to call for "an efficient mechanism providing energy security for the whole continent."

According to Roman Shpek, Ukraine's ambassador to the EU, Russia had attempted to create a "crisis situation" in the gas sphere and use it as a means of "political pressure" a few months ahead of parliamentary elections in Ukraine. He thanked the EU for proving true the saying that "a friend in need is a friend indeed". In response to MEPs' concern that the agreement reached only covered the next six months, he went on to reassure MEPs that the resignation of the Ukrainian Government yesterday will not affect Ukraine's effort to reach a final and longer lasting settlement of the gas problem with Russia. He added that Ukraine's foreign minister had already asked the European Commission for help in future negotiations with Russia.


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