Expert accuses Russia of blackmailing Europe over gas trade

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The President of the European Commission said on Wednesday the European Union would provide Moldova with financial support after the Kremlin reportedly offered the country cheaper gas in exchange for political leverage. Russia’s state-owned Gazprom is said to have exerted pressure on the former Soviet republic by asking it to alter its relations with the EU. Moldovan Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita claimed last week the Russian gas supplier threatened a considerable price hike if the deal was rejected.

Moldova’s contract with Gazprom ended in September and the renegotiation phase has failed to secure a fair deal.

Although Moldova is not a member state of the economic bloc, it maintains close relations with the EU and cooperates through the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP).

Russia’s strong-arming tactics have now sparked the ire of Europe’s top diplomats who accused Vladimir Putin of “weaponising” Russia’s gas supplies against Europe.

After completing the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline to Germany in September, Russia has been awaiting approval from EU regulators.

Many pundits believe the Kremlin has orchestrated a shortage of gas supplies across the continent in a bid to gain an upper hand over Europe.

The Kremlin has so far denied all claims of foul play with its dealings with Moldova.

But Josep Borrell, the EU’s chief of Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, is not convinced.

He said on Thursday: “In global terms, the price increases around the world are not a consequence of weaponisation of the gas supply, but in the case of Moldova, yes it is.”

Energy prices soar and EU poses 'joint gas purchase'

Gazprom has said it will suspend its gas exports to Moldova if the country fails to pay for previous efforts.

Experts fear the squeeze will affect Moldova’s most vulnerable residents.

The joint Russian-Moldovan supplier Moldovagaz already warned earlier this month supplies are dwindling and well below what is needed to power and heat the country.

To help alleviate the pressures, the European Commission said it would provide Moldova with a £50million (€60million) grant, however further details of the financial package are yet to be revealed.

Speaking to the EU’s diplomats on Thursday, Mr Borrell said he welcomed Moldova’s move “closer to the European Union” and praised the shared values of democracy, the rule of law and the respect of human rights.

He said: “Our discussions have been taking place in the context of this emergency situation in Moldova’s gas sector.

“We see attempts by Gazprom to put political pressure in return to lower the gas prices.

“And we agreed with the Prime Minister on the importance of a strengthening resilience against any potential efforts by third parties to use energy as a geopolitical weapon.”

Following a meeting between the EU’s top officials and the Moldovan Prime Minister, Mr Borrell said the EU stands ready to offer support and “find a way out of this crisis.”

He added: “As an example, a first example, a first step of our support is the announcement done by the President of the Commission of a €60million budget support programme announced yesterday.”

According to the diplomat, the financial aid will enable Moldovan authorities to set up a support scheme “for the most vulnerable people” affected by the squeeze ahead of winter.

Ms Gavrilita has also said Moldovan officials will continue to negotiate a deal with Russia on gas.

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