MOSCOW, April 28 (RIA Novosti) – Slovakia will have to choose to either support its own economy or that of Ukraine in deciding the issue of reverse gas supplies to its eastern neighbor, Vladimir Bachishin, a professor at Pan-European University in Bratislava, told the Voice of Russia radio station in an interview Monday.
“On the one hand we are pressured by the EU and the US, they say, as a member of the EU; we must take an attitude of solidarity in aiding Ukraine. But at the same time how do we defend the national interests of Slovakia, keeping up the level of income, which is perhaps the lowest in Europe as it is? We have to think of priorities,” Bachishin said, stressing that “for Slovakia the partnership with Gazprom is the number one priority today.”
“Gazprom may as well stop the transit of gas through Slovak territory in retaliation. After all, the company is a categorical opponent of reverse and it believes the action is complete fraud. Yes, we would get the North Stream gas quota, but would lose the status of transit country, i.e. would stop the supplies to the Czech Republic and Western Europe," he said.
"Thus, we would sustain significant financial losses, something Ukraine must understand. Our transit contract with Gazprom is valid until 2029. It is clear, how sensitive to the costs to the Slovak economy may be in case of damaged relations with its Russian partner,” the expert said.
Bachishin said the idea of reversing gas supplies from Slovakia to Ukraine is hardly anything novel, but the implementation would require the construction of a new pipe from Veľké Kapušany which receives Russian fuel to the Ukrainian town of Uzhgorod. It could pump up to 20 billion cubic meters of gas, but its construction would cost 20 million euros. The cost of the project is not the only reason why Bratislava is still not final on reverse, Bachishin noted.
Last week Bratislava hosted a trilateral meeting of Ukrainian Energy Minister Yuriy Prodan, Slovak Minister of Economy Tomas Malatinski and European Commissioner for Energy Guenther Oettinger.
Kiev is actively engaged in strengthening Ukraine's energy security, and is in talks to secure natural gas supplies from the EU.
In early April, Ukraine’s state-owned Naftogaz began importing gas from Poland through a pipeline reversal after Russia canceled gas discounts for Ukraine. The annual capacity of the route, 1.5 billion cubic meters of gas, is insufficient to meet the country’s demand. To increase supplies, Ukraine is trying to negotiate a reverse gas flow through Slovakia, which according to Naftogaz could supply up to 30 billion cubic meters of gas per year.