The halt in gas flows through Ukraine affects much of Europe as temperatures plummet. But it is in eastern and central Europe that the most hard-hitting effects can be felt. The greater reliance on Russian gas, the graver the consequences.
Around 100 percent of Slovakia’s gas needs are met by Russia. It only had ten days of reserves to rely on when the taps were turned off. Brataslava declared a state of emergency after deliveries were cut by 70 percent last week. The government announced it had no choice but to restart an old Soviet-era nuclear reactor. But it later delayed the restart after the European Commission warned of legal repercussions. A commitment to shut down the plant in 2008 had been one of the conditions of Slovakia’s entry to the EU four and a half years ago. Bosnia is another country all but entirely reliant on Russian gas. With their country not having any reserves to fall back on people turned to more traditional heating methods. Several factories were forced to close or reduce output. Bosnia sought alternative suppliers in Germany and Hungary. Bulgaria, which gets 96 percent of its gas from Russia, faced similar difficulties. Where possible power stations were switched from gas to oil, but it took time to make the transition and many Bulgarians were left shivering in the mean time. Like Slovakia, Bulgaria wants to restart a nuclear reactor it had shut down in 2006. But Brussels would be very reluctant to give the green light. Russia is also by far the main provider of gas to Serbia. Tens of thousands of homes were left without heat when the deliveries stopped on January 6th. Relief finally came in the form of emergency supplies from Germany and Hungary. Illustrating the far-reaching effects of the crisis, one pharmaceutical laboratory in Serbia was forced to close. Industries across eastern and central Europe suffered similar consequences.