Poland is still suffering shortfalls of gas nearly a month after a pact signed by Russia and Ukraine to resolve a dispute that left tens of thousands of people across Europe without fuel.
Poland for several weeks received just half the Russian gas typically shipped to it via Ukraine. The shortfall of some 7m cubic metres a day represented nearly a third of Poland’s total gas imports from Russia.
Russia has recently stepped in to make up most of the shortfall, delivering an additional 5m cubic metres a day, but has attached conditions for doing so, according to Polish officials.
The shortfalls, which have also affected Hungary and Romania, have increased concerns among European Union policymakers about lingering irregularities in the Russian-Ukrainian gas trade and rekindled fears that a commercial dispute could again boil over into a full-blown supply crisis.
“It’s a very frail truce, and emotions are running so high,” one European Commission official said.
Polish officials say that Russia has demanded a renegotiation of the 1993 treaty that governs gas shipments between the two countries in exchange for making up the shortfalls – a prospect that some fear could result in higher fees or other concessions. Gazprom, the Russian state gas company, was not available for comment.
“The crisis is not over,” a Polish diplomat said. “There are still quite a lot of outstanding issues.”
Driven by those concerns, the Commission is preparing to extend its mission to monitor pipelines, launched in the midst of the crisis, in spite of its costs to the European Union and the companies that have donated personnel. EU monitors are now expected to remain at metering sites and gas dispatch centres in the two countries “for the foreseeable future”, according to a person familiar with the matter – although their numbers could be reduced.
The shortages appear to stem from cuts in supply by RosUkrEnergo, an intermediary in the Russia-Ukraine gas trade that is jointly owned by Gazprom and two politically linked Ukrainian businessmen.
RosUkrEnergo was excised from contracts last month as part of the broader truce between Russia and Ukraine to end the gas dispute. That has left its contracts in limbo, interrupting 25m cubic metres in daily gas shipments.
The shortages have had little impact on Polish industry, according to government officials, but have hindered the country’s ability to refill its gas stores.
Andris Piebalgs, the EU energy commissioner, raised the issue during a visit to Moscow last week.
Meanwhile, Commission officials are also wary of ongoing tensions between political factions in Ukraine.
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