Gas pipeline operators in Ukraine are about to sign a deal with Slovakia that will enable the post-Soviet republic to receive European gas through reverse flow technology.
The deal, facilitated by EU Energy Commissionaire Guenther Oettinger, would mark an important milestone for Ukraine, reducing its dependence on Russia.
"We consider that we are very close to a deal," said European Commission spokeswoman Marlene Holzner. "The content of the deal has been agreed, whereby the gas will flow from West to East through Slovakia to Ukraine. It's just a matter of signing, which should be in the next few days."
The technology allowing pipeline flows to be reversed, made available last year, allows Ukraine to re-import some gas back from EU nations, including Hungary and Germany via Poland.
Reverse flow through Slovakia is more helpful strategically as it could increase the volumes. However, it might become more politically sensitive, putting Slovakia’s own supplies at risk.
Slovakia’s gas pipeline operator Eustream has annual transmission capacity of 90 billion cubic metres, 90 per cent of which goes to the European Union. All the gas is purchased from Russia.
To import the gas to Ukraine, existing unused pipelines will be used plus an additional small pipeline section will be built next year
The European Union has a keen interest in strengthening ties with Ukraine and pulling the former Soviet republic from Russia's sphere of influence. Ukraine's disputes with Russia over the price of gas and oil purchased from Gazprom, have disrupted gas supplies to both Ukraine and the European Union on several occasions in the past. The latest quarrel culminated last week when Ukraine stopped the Russian gas imports.