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Monday, January 26, 2009

Gazprom refuses to pay compensation for gas crisis

EurActiv Logo26 January 2009 - EurActive - Gazprom will pay no compensation for recent gas supply disruptions to Bulgaria and Slovakia, the countries worst affected by the gas crisis, which affected Russian gas supplies to 18 European countries this winter, writes Dnevnik, EurActiv's partner in Bulgaria. Sofia had officially requested Gazprom to pay compensation to Bulgarian consumers. Bulgaria also asked the Russian energy giant to agree to receive lower prices for its gas to compensate for the delivery failures. Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev said last week that his country had failed to receive 123 million cubic metres of gas during the two-week crisis. Press reports estimated the compensation request to be worth some 100 million euro. Gazprom Deputy CEO Alexander Medvedev visited Sofia on Friday to reject the compensation demands, invoking 'force majeure' and blaming Ukraine for the disruptions. Gazprom estimates that its own losses from the supply stops will top USD 2 billion. "Ukraine is to blame for the cut-off in gas deliveries," Medvedev told Bulgarian Energy Minister Petar Dimitrov and the management of Bulgaria's Energy Holding. Gazprom's Medvedev also rejected a Bulgarian proposal to establish direct contact between the Russian gas giant and the Bulgarian government. Gazprom said it intends to pursue dialogue via Overgas, the main intermediary for Russian gas imports to Bulgaria and a company of which Gazprom owns a majority stake. After visiting Bulgaria, Medvedev flew to Slovakia, where he met the country's Prime Minister Robert Fico. Slovakia is also insisting that it must receive compensation for the losses it has suffered. But Fico wants the EU to reach a common position on any potential compensation for the gas crisis, according to press reports. Western European nations have so far remained quiet over the compensation issue. Many suffered far less during the crisis than the EU's newer members did, the Wall Street Journal writes. The daily further recalls that Italy and Germany enjoy friendly relations with Russia and "may not want to rock the boat too much". European Commission President José Manuel Barroso indicated earlier this week that individual companies are free to sue Russia over the disruptions. But asked during a recent interview with EurActiv about potential compensation for consumers following the gas row, Consumer Affairs Commissioner Meglena Kuneva said it would be "very difficult to solve the issue from a practical point of view".

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