Current Affairs Belarus pipeline closure no immediate threat to Czech oil supplies

09-01-2007 15:51 | Coilin O'Connor

The disruption of oil supplies to Poland and Germany due to Russia's closure of a pipeline after of a price dispute with Belarus has sent shockwaves through Europe. Although immediate supplies to countries like the Czech Republic are not under threat, the situation has once again raised uncomfortable questions about Europe and the Czech Republic's increasing reliance on Russia as an energy supplier.

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Photo: CTKPhoto: CTK Russia's closure of an oil pipeline through Belarus has increased concern about its reliability as an energy partner for this part of the world. It is the second time in a year that supplies to Western Europe have been cut off as a result of a trade row between and a neighbouring country. Russian oil was also switched off last year because of a dispute with Ukraine.

Disruptions such as these have given rise to concerns that the Czech Republic and Europe cannot always rely on Russia to ensure their energy needs.

For the time being, however, Zuzana Opletalova, a spokeswoman for the Czech Ministry of Foreign affairs, says there is no cause for alarm regarding the country's energy supplies.

"No there is no actual danger. We are monitoring the situation, but there is no need for any concerns or fears yet. We have additional oil reserves for seven days, and we believe that oil supplies will be resumed soon. There is no threat that supplies to end users will be disrupted."

The Czech Republic actually has reserves of oil to last it about three and a half months and - as most analysts expect the trade row between Russia and Belarus to be resolved fairly quickly - there doesn't seem to be any fear that supplies will run out.

Nevertheless, what contingency plans does the Czech Republic have in case the dispute continues?

"Then we will take diplomatic measures. But there is no reason to think about such things yet, because we think the situation will be resolved in a matter of days. So there is no reason to worry yet."

Ms Opletalova didn't elaborate on what diplomatic measures could be taken if oil supplies continue to be affected, but the situation makes it clear that the Czech Republic and western Europe need to take a closer look at their increasing reliance on Russia as an energy partner. Potential future solutions include rerouting pipelines to avoid volatile countries like Belarus or of course looking for other energy suppliers elsewhere.

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