European Union energy experts have said that the EU's natural gas supplies were assured for this winter, following a deal this week between Belarus and Russia that averted a gas price war.
Europeans won't need to worry about their gas supply this winter
"In the context of a mild winter and considering the current situation of storage and gas flows, the measures taken by (EU) member states were considered appropriate to ensure security of supply," the EU's Gas Coordination Group said on Thursday.
Belarus Ambassador Vladimir Senko gave the group, which supervises the security of EU natural gas supplies, a "factual presentation" of the deal with Russia, a European Commission spokesman said after a Brussels meeting.
A spokesman for the European Commission, Ferran Tarradellas Espuny, told a news briefing Thursday he did not think the decision by Belarus to impose duty on Russian oil imports in transit through the country would affect EU supply security.
The mild winter in parts of Europe has even seen crocuses in bloom in December (here in Dresden)
"The general impression is that measures taken are adequate, but we have considered we have had a mild winter," Tarradellas Espuny said.
He added that it was the first time Belarus had taken part in the gas group meeting in Brussels, but Russia did not take part even though it had been invited.
Under the terms of an accord struck late on December 31 with Russian energy monopoly Gazprom, Belarus agreed to pay $100 per 1,000 cubic metres of gas from Russia, more than double the previous price of $45. Minsk also agreed to sell 50 percent of state pipeline operator Beltransgaz.
Russia had threatened to cut its supplies to Belarus on Jan. 1 unless it agreed to a new supply contract with higher prices. Minsk had threatened to disrupt Russian gas exports to western Europe that pass through its territory.
"No threat to deliveries"
The EU is heavily dependent on Russian energy. Russia supplied 24 percent of the EU's total gas needs in 2005, according to data from European gas federation Eurogas, representing 40 percent of all gas imports to the bloc.
Of that, about 20 percent transits through Belarus -- mainly to Germany, Lithuania and Poland -- and some 80 percent through Ukraine, meaning that about five percent of Europe's gas could have been hit.
Tarradellas Espuny said the European Commission did not expect the decision by Belarus on Wednesday to impose duty on Russian oil exports to affect either supply or price.
"We expect that the differences between the two parties are going to permit consumers to expect oil supplies at the prices that have been previously contracted," he said.
Russia too said on Thursday it did not expect the escalating trade row with Belarus to disrupt supplies to Europe.
"There is no threat to deliveries," Kremlin spokesman Dmirty Peskov said.