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Romanian President Basescu says his country is paying the highest gas prices in Europe (file photo) (AFP)
11 January 2006 -- Romania's Economy Minister Codrut Seres today asked prosecutors to review all gas purchase contracts from Russia, following allegations that the country is paying too much.
Seres said in a statement that he wanted prosecutors to review contracts signed by five Romanian companies to buy Russian gas from state-controlled monopoly Gazprom through two intermediaries.
On 10 January, President Traian Basescu said that Romania was paying the highest price for gas in Europe, and warned that interest groups "were surrounding the Economy Ministry."
Seres is a member of the country’s Conservative Party, which is a junior partner in Romania's governing coalition. The party has been at odds with Basescu.
Seres said that Romanian companies would pay a floating rate of up to $285 per 1,000 cubic meters for Russian gas.
Romania imports about 40 percent of its natural gas from Russia, with the other 60 percent produced locally.
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- Ukraine consumes 70 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas per year. It produces 20 bcm of its own gas, has a signed contract to import 40 bcm from Turkmenistan, and in 2005 was getting 29 bcm from Russia as payment for transit of Russian gas.
- Ukraine sells some 7 bcm of gas a year to the West and places some in underground storage facilities. These facilities can hold 34.5 bcm.
Ukraine is the sixth-largest consumer of gas
in the world and uses more gas than Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia combined.
- Russia has proven gas reserves of 47 trillion cubic meters (tcm) -- the largest in the world ahead of Iran and Qatar.
Russia sells approximately 160 bcm to Europe each year.
By 2015, Europe is expected to import 300 bcm, or 40 percent of its projected needs from Russia.
Russia's Gazprom is the world's largest gas company.
It is the only company allowed by Russian law to export gas outside the borders of the CIS. It also owns the gas-transportation system and most of the gas fields in Russia.
The Russian state is Gazprom's majority shareholder
, with a 51 percent share. The company's ownership rights changed as of the beginning of 2006, with Gazprom stock being sold on the open market. The Russian state, however, will continue to hold the majority stake.