EU to 'Reframe' Russian Energy Ties When Time is Right
BRUSSELS, Feb 20 (Reuters) – The European Union will consider "reframing" energy relations based on market conditions with Russia when the time is right and for now is focusing on building a strategic gas partnership with Ukraine, a draft document shows.
The European Commission, the EU executive, is seeking to create a single energy market, based on cross-border connections to improve security of supply and reduce dependence on Russia, which supplies roughly one third of EU energy.
Next week, the Commission is expected to publish formally its strategy on an energy union.
"When the conditions are right, the EU will consider reframing the energy relationship with Russia based on a level playing field in terms of market opening, fair competition, environmental protection and safety, for the mutual benefit of both sides," a draft of the Energy Union Package seen by Reuters says.
For now, it says particular attention will be paid to upgrading "the strategic partnership on energy" with Ukraine.
It says it will address Ukraine's importance as a transit country, as well as improving infrastructure and Ukraine's energy efficiency to reduce its dependence on imports.
Russia's long-standing gas relations with the EU and Ukraine, the main transit route for Russian gas to the EU, have deteriorated since Russia's seizure of Ukraine's Crimea region last year.
Fighting has persisted in Ukraine despite European efforts to ensure a ceasefire takes hold.
Russian gas giant Gazprom last June cut off supplies to Ukraine over a pricing dispute, only resuming them after the European Commission brokered a temporary deal that lasts until the end of March.
On Thursday, Russia started supplying gas to rebel-held eastern Ukraine after Kiev suspended deliveries, citing damage to the networks.
(Reporting by Barbara Lewis; Editing by Dale Hudson)