The EU expects gas supplies from Russia to resume on Tuesday morning, officials in Brussels said Monday after a pricing row between Russia and Ukraine disrupted supplies for nearly a week in freezing temperatures.
The EU has worked hard on breaking the stalemate in the Russia-Ukraine gas dispute
All parties have signed an agreement to resolve a dispute over Russian gas supplies to Europe via Ukrainian pipelines on Monday, according to Russia's state controlled Gazprom deputy chief executive Alexander Medvedev.
"The document has been finally signed," Medvedev said at a news conference in Brussels.
"If everything goes without problem, most likely in the nearest future we will start pumping the first quantities of gas," he said.
European Union energy ministers had convened an emergency meeting in the morning for Russia to resume gas supplies to Europe, since all of the conditions set by Moscow had been fulfilled.
The talks were designed to shape "concrete measures" needed by the bloc to deal with the gas shortages, provoked by Russia blocking all supplies destined for Europe via Ukrainian pipelines.
Strengthening solidarity among EU energy ministers
Improving the efficiency of the bloc's energy market was also on the agenda, as well as ways of strengthening solidarity between member states in the face of future crises, the Czech presidency said.
Europeans are looking to other energy sources to reduce their dependance on Russian gas
At the moment, Hungary is supplying some of its gas to EU hopeful Serbia, while Poland is sending trucks loaded with gas to Slovakia.
The Czech EU presidency will also be called upon to mediate in a brewing row between Slovakia and its neighbor, Austria.
Austrian furor over re-launch of Slovakian nuclear reactor
Bratislava has infuriated Vienna by deciding to make up for its shortages by re-opening its Soviet-era Bohunice nuclear power plant complex, which it had to shut down for security reasons as part of the conditions set for it to join the bloc in 2004.
"Shutting off the plant was one of the fundamental conditions fo (Slovakia's entry into the EU), and it cannot simply be cancelled now," Austrian Environment Minister Nikolaus Berlakovich said over the weekend.
The EU's top energy official, Andris Piebalgs, said the European Commission is willing to discuss the matter.
European households without heating
The weeks-long gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine has already left hundreds of thousands of people in central and southern Europe without heating in one of the coldest winters in decades.
The EU had worked hard to try and break the stalemate by sending a monitoring mission to Kiev tasked with ensuring that no gas bound to Europe is siphoned off by Ukraine, as alleged by Moscow.
EU ministers were also expected to focus on the need for the bloc to develop alternative energy supplies, both by building pipelines to bypass Ukraine and Russia and by turning to other technologies, such as solar, wind and wave power.
"All European member states must do their bit so that more sources (of energy) are opened up and delivery routes created," Peter Hintze, a top official from the German economics ministry, said in Brussels.