Croatia declares crisis over halt in gas supply

Croatia's government declared a crisis on Wednesday, after the country's deliveries of Russian gas halted.

Croatia declares crisis over halt in gas supply

Croatia's government declared a crisis on Wednesday, after the country's deliveries of Russian gas halted, so it could make distributors cut gas flows to industry and give priority to homes, schools and hospitals.

"Such a decision is a precondition to force local distributors to reduce gas supply to industrial users," Deputy Prime Minister Damir Polancec told reporters.

He said the economy ministry was preparing to rank consumers in terms of priority. "Citizens will certainly get the full quantities of gas they need," Polancec said.

Prime Minister Ivo Sanader said Croatia had 370 million cubic metres of gas in storage and that should last around three weeks. Some 10 percent of that amount belongs to neighbouring Slovenia, a European Union member.

"There is no reason for panic, but certainly for a serious approach to this problem. No reductions in supply for citizens are envisaged," Sanader said after meeting representatives of oil and gas company INA and gas pipeline operator Plinacro.

Russian supply to Croatia stopped overnight as the effects of a row over gas prices and debts between Moscow and Kiev spread across Europe. Flows to Croatia had first halted on Tuesday morning, but then partially resumed before stopping again.

The government said it would try to secure uninterrupted gas supply to priority users, including households, schools, kindergartens and hospitals.

Sanader said an option would be to extend the winter break for schools if the situation seriously worsened.

INA, in which the government has 44 a percent stake, was given the task of exploring fresh supply routes with its Italian counterpart ENI, state radio reported.

Croatia, a candidate for EU membership, consumes some 12 million cubic metres of gas daily in the winter season. It produces 4.8 million cubic metres itself and the rest is mostly covered by imports from Russia.

INA said domestic production was running at full capacity.

Sanader said that, to secure safe gas supply in future, the government would step up talks with Hungary's MOL, which owns 48 percent of INA, on taking over INA's gas business.

It would also intensify work on new supply routes, including the building of an Adriatic liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal.

Reuters
Last Mod: 08 Ocak 2009, 12:27
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