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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 January 2006, 11:56 GMT
EU 'should take less Russian gas'
Gaspipe valves
Russia's gas dispute with Ukraine has raised fears in the EU
Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel has called on the EU to reduce its dependence on Russian gas supplies.

Mr Schuessel said the EU had to ensure "security of supply" after a gas row between Russia and Ukraine caused temporary shortages in Europe.

The Austrian leader was setting out his country's priorities for its six-month presidency of the EU.

His comments came amid reports that Russia had cut supplies by 20% to parts of Europe because of cold weather.

A spokesman for Russia's state-owned Gazprom, quoted by the Reuters news agency, said the gas was needed for domestic purposes because of extreme cold at home.

The spokesman told Reuters that gas flows had already been cut on the route to Hungary, which also supplies Bosnia-Herzegovina, and might be reduced on the route to Italy and Austria as well.

The EU imports more than 40% of the gas it uses. About half of that comes from Russia via pipeline through Ukraine.

Dependence

Mr Schuessel told the European Parliament in Strasbourg that the EU needed to promote long-term investment in energy and "look for a long-term solution".

He said the issue would be high on the agenda of the next EU summit in June.

"It's a question of reducing our dependence on one supplier and another question of diversification of supplies," he said.

However, he stressed that member states would remain entitled to choose their own form of energy and that Austria remained opposed to the use of nuclear power.

Russia is renegotiating gas deals with a number of ex-Soviet Union nations, a move that has raised regional tensions.

On 1 January it cut supplies to Ukraine, raising the prospect of surging gas prices across Europe.

The spat with Ukraine was short-lived, but closely watched, because any disruption to European supplies could have a major impact.


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