RPT-No gas supply impact from EU-Kiev tension-EU's Oettinger

Wed Oct 19, 2011 3:30pm BST

(Repeats to more subscribers)

* EU much better placed than in 2009 in event of supply outage

* New infrastructure spending should add to supply security

* Russia, Kiev ties still tense over gas

By Christopher Le Coq and Barbara Lewis

BRUSSELS, Oct 19 (Reuters) - Tension between gas transit nation Ukraine and the European Union over the jailing of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko has no impact on the security of energy supply, EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger said on Wednesday.

He also reiterated previous comments that the bloc was much better prepared for any possible disruption of natural gas in the coming winter from the European Union's dominant supplier Russia.

"No, in no way," Oettinger told reporters when asked if the situation in Ukraine could have any energy impact.

"We think that the Tymoshenko case must be looked at from the point of view of the rule of law. It is not connected with gas supply and security of supply."

The European Union has bad memories of the impact of a pricing row between Ukraine and Russia at the start of 2009, which resulted in major disruption of natural gas supplies to member countries.

Tensions between Ukraine and Russia are still high as Kiev says a deal brokered in 2009 between Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Tymoshenko left it paying an exorbitant price for Russian gas.

Ukraine wants a new deal and talks are ongoing.

The European Union has sought to nurture ties with both Russia and Ukraine through tripartite talks.

But the European Union on Tuesday called off a meeting later this week with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich over the imprisonment of his arch rival.

Yanukovich had been scheduled to meet European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and the president of the EU council of member states, Herman Van Rompuy, on Thursday for talks aimed at advancing the European integration course of his ex-Soviet country.

If any tension were to boil up into disruption of gas supply, Oettinger said the bloc was already much better prepared to cope, and planned investment would improve the situation further.

"We all learnt our lesson from the turn of the year 2008-2009," Oettinger said.

In particular, he cited an increase in gas storage capacity and improved interconnections so available supplies can be distributed more easily.

Oettinger was speaking after the publication of the EU's latest energy infrastructure package.

The plan seeks to speed through projects of common interest, such as cross-border pipelines, to help bring in supplies from sources other than Russia, as well as to build infrastructure that promotes greener supplies and makes connections to bring about a single European market.

The EU will adopt a first list of projects of common interest in July 2013 and they will be eligible for money from the 9.1 billion euros ($12.45 billion) of EU money set aside for energy infrastructure.

The funding is in the draft 2014-2020 EU budget, subject to lengthy debate, and could leverage further cash from private sources, national governments and new project bonds. ($1 = 0.731 Euros) (Additional reporting by Richard Balmforth in Kiev; editing by Rex Merrifield)

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