EU Chief Says Ukraine Won't Reopen Gas Deal

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- The European Union said Tuesday that Ukraine's president has promised he will not reopen a 2009 energy deal with Moscow that restarted natural gas service to EU countries last week.

Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko (L) and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso hold a joint news conference after a meeting in Brussels January 27, 2009.

Russia halted gas shipments to Europe over Ukrainian pipelines for two weeks earlier this month amid a contract dispute over what Ukraine should pay for Russian gas in 2009.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko indicated last week he wanted to revisit the gas deal with Russia, saying its terms will further undermine his country's economy, but he backed off that view at EU headquarters.

In a joint news conference with Yushchenko, EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said it was now key for both sides to improve relations and help Ukraine upgrade its energy and pipeline networks so it can regain the trust of EU gas clients.

Barroso said Ukraine "will honor its commitment" to the deal signed with Russia.

Yushchenko said his country would "perform its responsibility as a transit state."

"The agreements signed are not easy ones (but) Ukraine fully takes up full-fledged transit to the European consumers," Yushchenko said.

Barroso said he was convinced the Ukraine wanted to deepen its ties with the EU and added that the EU was keen to do that as well. Ukraine has been seeking membership in both the EU and NATO.

"But of course in the energy sector there was a problem, and we have to solve that problem," Barroso said. "We have to state very clearly that we were not happy, in fact we were very disappointed."

The European Union gets a quarter of its gas from Russia, most of that over Ukrainian pipelines. The gas cutoff left many EU nations reeling, searching frantically for alternative energy sources in the midst of winter.

Barroso said the EU would work with Ukraine to seek new international investors to modernize the ex-Soviet state's energy networks and to link the country into central European electricity grids. An investors meeting is planned for March 23, in Brussels.

Source: AP