Brussels, 17 January 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Although Brussels warmly welcomed the deal between Russia and Moldova today, officials were well aware that it does not guarantee ultimate closure to the issue.
Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen, a European Commission spokeswoman, emphasized in her comments the fact that longer-term talks between Moscow and Chisinau continue.
"The commission does indeed welcome the fact that an agreement has been reached between Russia and Moldova on [the] delivery of gas, and the fact that after being without gas from Russia since the 1st of January the gas has now been turned back on, that is a very welcome development," Ahrenkilde Hansen said. "We understand that in the meantime negotiations will continue with the aim of finding a final settlement, but the deal is there and we welcome it."
Under the deal, for the next four months Moldova will pay $110 for 1,000 cubic meters of Russian gas -- $30 more per 1,000 cubic meters than it paid last year. What happens when that deal runs out is an open question.
Russia also increased its share in Moldova's gas monopoly Moldovagaz to 64 percent.
Under the deal, for the next four months Moldova will pay $110 for 1,000 cubic meters of Russian gas -- $30 more per 1,000 cubic meters than it paid last year.
Russian gas deliveries -- amounting to 245,000 million cubic meters last year -- had been blocked since 1 January. To cover the shortfall, Moldova purchased gas from Ukraine's reserves.
Ahrenkilde Hansen said the EU will continue to "follow developments closely."
She also said the European Commission will dispatch an energy expert to Moldova on 18 January to review the overall energy situation there "from the perspective of security of supply."
Ahrenkilde Hansen said the expert will conduct a "very general evaluation," looking at the possibility of Moldova joining the energy treaty signed between the EU and countries in southeastern Europe on 25 October. The treaty is intended to create a single space in the countries, and to extend to them EU-relevant legislation and standards. One of the avowed aims of the treaty is the diversification of energy supply.
Ahrenkilde Hansen stressed that the EU is not taking sides in the energy disputes that have flared up between Russia and its neighbors.
"That's not what our expert mission is about," Ahrenkilde Hansen said. "We do consider that negotiations between Moldova and Russia are a bilateral matter and indeed it would not be appropriate for us to get directly involved in the negotiations."
"We do consider that negotiations between Moldova and Russia are a bilateral matter and indeed it would not be appropriate for us to get directly involved in the negotiations" -- spokeswoman Ahrenkilde Hansen
An EU official -- who requested anonymity -- said the EU expert will come up with an assessment of Moldova's energy needs after speaking to "everyone involved" locally. The official said the EU is looking into what it can do to alleviate the situation -- the obvious point of which in the longer term is to reduce Moldova's dependence on Russia.
Another EU expert visited Moldova in December. EU officials stress both that and the current mission were requested by Chisinau under the terms of its EU Neighborhood Policy agreement, which has a provision relating to energy cooperation.
The first expert examined Moldova's request for EU aid to build three new electricity lines from Romania. EU officials did not comment on that project today.