Pipeline operators in Ukraine and Slovakia are on the verge of signing a deal that will allow the European Union to ship gas through Slovakia to Ukraine, reducing Kiev's dependence on Russia, the European Commission and Ukraine said on November 19, Reuters has reported.
The pipeline flow agreement could also help to bring about a historic partnership agreement between the EU and Ukraine, which both Russia and the EU are vying to tie into their respective spheres of influence.
Asked whether a deal was about to be signed, Ukraine's Fuel and Energy Minister Eduard Stavytsky told Reuters: "Yes, no doubt."
European Commission spokeswoman Marlene Holzner said: "We consider that we are very close to a deal ... 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 reverse flow deal should be the climax of more than a year of talks brokered by EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger.
The gas would be shipped by physical reverse flow, through existing, unused pipelines, plus a small section of pipeline to be built next year.
The EU has a keen interest in strengthening ties with Ukraine, whose gas price disputes with Russia's state-controlled Gazprom have disrupted supplies to both Ukraine and the EU. If Ukraine meets the EU's conditions, it looks likely to sign agreements on trade and other forms of cooperation with the EU in Vilnius on Nov. 29.
A spokesman for Slovakia's gas pipeline operator Eustream said late on November 18 that Eustream was cooperating with its Ukrainian partners but could not disclose details until a deal was signed.
Copyright: Reuters, 2013