By Andreeva Svetlana
The Union State of Russia and Belarus got a second wind on Friday, when a raft of documents pertaining to the energy sector was signed during the Union State’s Supreme Council session in Moscow. Also on Friday, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said that maintaining security and improving people’s living standards remained the Union State’s top priority.
As for the documents inked during Friday’s meeting, they regulate further Russian gas supplies to Belarus and their transit through Belarusian territory. According to the documents, Russian gas giant Gazprom will acquire 50 percent of Belarusian gas transportation company Beltransgaz, in which Gazprom already owns a 50-percent stake.
These agreements are of paramount importance because they specifically focus on the purchase and sale of stakes, Beltransgaz’s activity and the process of price formation – something that President Medvedev says will help boost Russian-Ukrainian cooperation in the field of energy.
“It took [us] a while to sign these documents which are the result of a huge effort, Medvedev says. I hope that they will help meet Belarusian customers’ ever-increasing energy demands, as well as boost our immediate neighbors’ energy security as well as give a serious impetus to our trade and economic cooperation. The past nine months have seen a 40 percent increase in the bilateral trade turnover, which is the result of new integration schemes and our desire to develop economic partnership.”
As of January 1, 2012, the minimum mark-up on the price of Beltransgaz gas for Belarusian customers will be 15,95 dollars per 1,000 cubic meters. Between 2013 and 2031, the figure will be adjusted in accordance with the inflation. Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko said, on his part, that Friday’s agreements draw a line under gas spats between Moscow and Minsk.
“I believe, Shmatko says, that these documents are a real proof that the Customs Union and the Single Economic Space are working and that all those decisions which have been adopted within the framework of the Union State are working too. I hope that the agreements will help us implement all those tasks essential for increasing our mutual trade turnover which have been outlined by our leaders.”
Gazprom’s acquisition of a 100-percent stake in Beltransgaz means that European customers will be supplied with gas without delay. They will certainly benefit from Friday’s agreements, believes Gennady Shmal, president of Russia’s Union of Oil and Gas Industrialists.
“I’m sure, Shmal says, that many European countries, especially those which receive gas via Belarus and Poland, can relax for years to come. Friday’s contract adds significantly to the reliability of gas supplies. As for Gazprom, it is interested in finding a reliable market for Russian gas, which is why Gazprom will do its best to continue to supply gas to European customers on a long-term basis.”
Also on the agenda of Friday’s meeting was the construction of a nuclear power plant in Belarus by 2017 – something that is expected to give an additional boost to Russian-Belarusian cooperation. According to Friday’s agreements, Russia will grant a 10-billion-dollar loan to Belarus to help it build the NPP.
Designed by the St.Petersburg-based Atomenergoproyekt Institute, the plant will consist of two power units with a total capacity of 2,3 megawatts. The first unit is due to be put into operation in 2017, while the second one will be completed a year later.