Russia’s bitter row over gas prices with its neighbour Ukraine has left European countries scrabbling to find alternative energy supplies.
Eastern Europe has been badly hit by the dispute with several countries being forced to dip into their reserves. Bulgaria has said it will ask the EU to provide 400 million euros in aid to help ease its dependence on Russia, its sole gas supplier, by expanding storage and building pipeline links to Greece and Romania. Diplomats fear Ukraine is paying the price for electing pro-Western leaders after the Orange revolution in 2004 and applying to join NATO. Questions are now being asked about Russia’s reliability as an energy supplier to the extent that Slovakia says it may be forced to restart a Soviet-era nuclear reactor, recently shut down on safety grounds. Such a move would be in contravention of Slovakia’s EU accession deal.