European Union energy officials met in Brussels to map out a common approach to energy security, after a bitter dispute between Russia and Ukraine briefly threatened natural gas supplies across the bloc.
The EU wants to be sure it can keep the home fires burning
To the palpable relief of European Union energy officials, Russia and Ukraine reached a deal just hours before an emergency meeting in Brussels on Wednesday.
Now the EU is considering ways to avoid the same thing happening again. Under his country's EU presidency, Austrian Finance Minister Martin Bartenstein welcomed the agreement and took credit for the EU's role in drawing Moscow and Kiev back to the negotiating table.
"Both sides were called upon by us to refrain from unilateral action," Bartenstein said. "In addition it was underlined that the European Union and member states count on the reasonable compromise solution based on negotiations. Both sides were urged to achieve this goal rapidly in the interests of energy security both in the region and in the European Union at large. Our appeal, ladies and gentlemen, was apparently successful."
But Europe's energy chief Andris Piebalgs said the gas dispute between Russia and the Ukraine underscores the need to reassess Europe's energy needs. Member states need a common rule book for energy efficiency and renewable and nuclear energy since Europe is increasingly dependent on outside sources, he said.
Europe needs cohesive policy
"Europe needs a clear and more collective and cohesive policy on security and energy supply," Piebalgs said. "Today the issue of security of energy supply is only really considered at a national member-state level, but in reality we need a much greater European-wide approach on this issue."
Piebalgs, from Latvia, says the EU needs a cohesive policy on energy
Europe relies on Russian gas to varying degrees; Germany, for instance, gets a third of its gas from Russia. After Moscow cut off Kiev's gas, some EU countries reported a 50 percent loss to their supply.
Even though Russia has reasserted itself as a reliable source, there are other sources of supply the EU could look to, said Piebalgs.
"For security of supply, if the crisis arose, we have security of stocks at different levels in different member states," he said. "There are gas storages that could be used and there also alternative supplies to the European Union, we have a lot of gas from Norway. We are also receiving from Algeria."
Moving towards a common energy policy will now be at the top of the agenda for the Austrian presidency, which took the EU's helm on Jan. 1.
In the meantime, EU officials can breathe a sigh of relief, after having narrowly avoiding a crisis no one seems sure could have been tackled from Brussels.