Energy crisis 'needs European response'

Russia's state-owned energy firm Gazprom is currently locked in a pricing dispute with Ukraine's Naftogaz which has resulted in natural gas exports to Ukraine being halted.

Seventeen European Union countries have suffered disruption to their gas supplies as a result and are being forced to draw on dwindling stockpiles amid freezing temperatures across much of the continent.

Lessons have not been learned from a similar impasse in January two years ago, Katinka Barysch of the Centre for European Reform thinktank believes.

"After 2006 people said this time it can't happen again," she told

"Despite that it has, it's much worse than in 2006. So what happens next? The Europeans need to learn the lessons. The last time they simply panicked."

The goal of an integrated European energy market remains elusive, but a directive is "in the pipeline" which will force energy firms to break up its transportation business from its production facilities.

Improving infrastructure through the courting of third-party countries like Turkmenistan to complete supply agreements with the EU are another option.

And the development of alternative energies will also limit the extent to which Europe can be so easily blackmailed by Russia. Germany is one example: its supplies from Algeria and Norway insulate it from eastern disruption.

"If that was the case for most European countries, obviously that would work a lot better," Ms Barysch added. "For that we need interconnections between international markets."

The current crisis appears to be escalating and Ukraine has claimed it has enough stockpiles to maintain its current stance until March.

But Ms Barysch pointed out the disruption of supplies to Europe means the country cannot afford dwindling sympathy from its western allies. It is currently seeking membership of Nato as well as accession to the EU.

She said: "In 2006 the Russians cut off the gas ? the Ukrainians were the good guys. Since then they have discredited themselves, we have just seen squabbling self-serving politicians.

Not that the Russians can afford a prolonged impasse either, she added. "They need the cash."

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