On Monday, October 28, in Brussels, the fourth round of trilateral consultations took place in the format Russia - European Union - Ukraine on the continuation of gas transit through the Ukrainian GTS after December 31, 2019, when the current contract expires. The Russian delegation at the talks was represented by Alexander Novak, the head of the Ministry of Energy, and Alexei Miller, Chairman of the Gazprom Management Committee.

“Everyone is set up to ensure reliable gas transit”

According to the results of trilateral consultations, the Minister of Energy of Russia noted that the meeting was “quite constructive”, since all parties are determined to reach consensus.

“The talks were positive. The next consultations will take place before the end of November. Everyone is set to ensure reliable gas transit from January 1, 2020, ”Novak said.

According to him, in the near future, contacts will continue to develop acceptable rules for interaction between gas transmission system operators in Russia and Ukraine. In addition, a “clock reconciliation” took place on the implementation of European legislation in Ukraine to understand the mechanisms that will govern the relationship from January 1, 2020.

  • Minister of Energy of the Russian Federation Alexander Novak
  • Reuters
  • © Yves Herman

“As a fallback, we are ready to ensure the extension of the gas transit agreement, which is valid today, for 2020. Although if our Ukrainian colleagues are ready to work under European legislation, we are also ready under this legislation to ensure gas transit through Ukraine from 2020, ”the head of the Russian Ministry of Energy added.

In addition, Novak said that the Russian side “sees the readiness” of Kiev from 2020 to resume direct gas purchases. Recall that in November 2015, Naftogaz Ukrainy stopped purchasing fuel from Gazprom, switching to reverse supplies of Russian gas from Slovakia, Hungary and Poland.

“Specific figures will be discussed later,” he added.

The main conclusion from the meeting was that the parties are determined to resolve the issue, said RT Chairman of the State Duma Committee on Energy Pavel Zavalny.

“There is mutual movement. Therefore, negotiations, consultations are held on the positive - on the desire to solve the problem, rather than exacerbate it. Even if everything is prepared, it is not a fact that under these conditions it will be possible to conclude a contract, book and provide transit. Therefore, of course, there should be options. Plus there was the issue of nullifying or resolving mutual claims under the old contract - the issue has not been resolved. I’m afraid that this will be a stumbling block, ”the parliamentarian said.

Batch Solution

Meanwhile, Marosh Shefchovich, deputy head of the European Commission on Energy Union Affairs, called the results of the meeting disappointing. According to him, this is allegedly due to the unwillingness of the Russian delegation to make concessions.

“I am disappointed with today's outcome and I say this openly. I prepared the meeting so that if there was political will, there could be progress, ”he said.

The EU representative urged not to delay the conclusion of a transit agreement, since "January 1, 2020 is just around the corner." He also said that the Ukrainian side is ready for a discussion on a “package” solution to the gas issue, which includes direct fuel supplies and a settlement agreement on litigation between Gazprom and Naftogaz.

In turn, the Minister of Energy of Ukraine Oleksiy Orzhel confirmed that certain positions of the Russian side regarding arbitrations and volumes of direct gas supply were discussed.

“The direct supply agreement, I think, we can consider with the Russian side on favorable terms for both sides. If we say that the price should be competitive, market, we can consider these conditions for the supply, ”said the head of the Ukrainian Ministry of Energy.

At the same time, he expressed the hope that a new gas transit contract with Russia would be signed before the end of 2019.

Chatting Putin and Merkel

Note that against the background of the next stage of the discussion, a telephone conversation took place between Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. According to the Kremlin’s press service, the leaders of the two countries exchanged views “regarding the continuation of the transit of Russian gas through Ukraine to Europe after the expiration of the relevant contract at the end of 2019”.

Recall that on October 22, technical consultations were held in anticipation of a new round of trilateral negotiations. They passed "in a constructive manner," the Russian Ministry of Energy said. According to Russian Permanent Representative to the EU Vladimir Chizhov, "there is room for progress."

At the same time, the press service of NAK Naftogaz Ukrainy added that they discussed the implementation by Kiev of EU legislation, the organization of an independent operator of the gas transportation system of Ukraine and an agreement on its interaction with a Russian partner.

On October 2, during his participation in the plenary session of the Russian Energy Week forum, Vladimir Putin emphasized that Moscow was ready to sign a new gas transit agreement with the EU in Kiev in accordance with European law, if the Ukrainian side manages to adopt the relevant standards by the end of the year. Otherwise, Russia is ready to extend the existing contract for a year.

“If she cannot do this, which is very likely - there are domestic Ukrainian legislative and political procedures that Ukrainian partners still need to go through, it will not be very easy to do this, then we are just ready to extend for a while, say, a year, the existing pumping contract, ”the head of state explained.