Serbia is considering extending its current contract with Russian energy giant Gazprom until the end of the year, instead of signing a new long-term one.
This was explained by the Minister of Energy Zorana Mihajlovic, quoted by the public media RTS.
In Belgrade, the suspension of gas supplies to Bulgaria was among the leading topics today. The most widely read media – from the tabloids on RTS and the highly critical Serbian version of N1 TV – interpreted statements by authorities as a risk for Sofia to reconsider gas transit to the country shortly after Energy Minister Alexander Nikolov rejected the move. Mihajlovic assured us that the gas supply is currently normal, but the problem will be in the winter.
“We are worried about winter”
However, Mihajlovic admitted that as part of measures to protect Serbia’s energy security, a radical decision could be made: not how, but whether to negotiate a new contract with Gazprom at a time when the current one expires on May 31st. “By May 31, we have 6 million cubic meters of gas (daily) entering through Bulgaria,” she said.
“Whether and how to negotiate, whether the existing agreement can be extended instead of a new one, will be on the table now and then in the talks between Serbiagaz and Gazprom,” he explained.
“We are worried about winter,” said Mikhailovich, known as one of the brightest figures in the “pro-European”, more pro-Western camp in the Serbian government. The problem, she said, is that currently, the average consumption is 4.5 million cubic meters per day, but usually reaches 11-15 million in the coldest months. Therefore, the serious question is “what will the deliveries from October look like”. Read more: Putin stops gas if he is not paid in rubles
Mikhailovich also talked about opportunities for diversification, as well as the purchase of gas storage capacity outside Serbia – for example with Hungary.
“Of course, we also think about joint gas purchases with Europe, just as Europe makes joint gas purchases,” Mihajlovic said. The question is “Serbia has enough gas for the winter”.
I think we need to put everything on the table and ensure our security in every way possible. Because if you look around, now everyone takes care of themselves.
– Zorana Mihajlovic, Minister of Energy of Serbia
Serbia, like Bulgaria, is looking at the possibility of receiving liquefied gas that has reached Europe via Greece or Azerbaijan in the future, but the Nis-Dimitrovgrad gas connection must be built first – no earlier than September next year, Mihajlovic said.
Serbia is at a crossroads
Belgrade is under pressure to impose Western sanctions on Moscow over the war in Ukraine.
In addition, Serbia has been trying for weeks to negotiate with Russia the sale of NIS (Petroleum Industry Serbia), in which Gazprom is the majority owner.
Serbian authorities have been given a breath of fresh air: they would lose access to oil via a pipeline in Croatia, which, due to NIS ownership, intended to suspend transmission under a May 15th European directive. However, a change in the EU directive has led to a postponement of the implementation of the current agreement with Gazprom.
President Aleksandar Vucic, who won a landslide victory in the presidential but less convincing parliamentary election, is currently forming the new government and is signaling that he will not decide on Russia’s relations without seeking legitimacy from the parliament to which opposition parties have returned.
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