The European Commission said it welcomed Ukraine’s strong commitment to following through on the decisive and long-overdue process of unbundling, as this is also a crucial element of trilateral gas talks between Brussels, Kyiv, and Moscow, European Commission Vice President for Energy Union Maroš Šefčovič said on December 5.

Šefčovič met Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin in Brussels on December 5 for talks between the EU and Ukraine that focused on ongoing trilateral discussions that include Russia, a country that Kyiv is currently at war with, on the issue of long-term gas transit to Europe and the unbundling of Gas Transmission System Operator of Ukraine.

“I am hopeful that this shared objective and agreement between the Ukrainian side and the key stakeholders is a game-changer. It gives a new dynamic to the process and it will allow for smooth preparations to establish a new transmission system operator in Ukraine by January 2020,” said Šefčovič, who added, “In this respect, I appreciate a constructive cooperation of Naftogaz, which is essential so that all necessary steps in the unbundling process are timely and efficiently implemented.”

He added that the Commission stands ready to assist in this process in the coming weeks and throughout 2019, as this is also a crucial element of the trilateral gas talks. “Their successful outcome, namely a continued, long-term transit of gas through Ukraine to the EU in a reliable and commercially viable way is of utmost importance for the EU’s energy security,” he said, who represents the European Commission at the talks with Russia and Ukraine.

Both Klimkin and Šefčovič also spoke about the Azov Sea incident that saw Russian warships attack and seize three Ukrainian vessels in international waters on November 25.  Šefčovič maintained that the EU remains committed to its immediate response to the increase of tensions in the Azov and Black seas, while also acknowledging Kyiv’s highly constructive engagement in the trilateral talks thus far, This, according to Šefčovič, confirms that the future framework for gas transit to the EU is of vital importance to Ukraine.

Both sides have expressed their intention to hold another trilateral meeting at the political level early next year, which could be preceded by a technical meeting involving experts, the Commission said.

Regarding the unbundling of the gas transmission operation in Ukraine, Šefčovič welcomed Klimkin’s strong commitment to the process. An independent and trusted gas transmission system operator is a cornerstone of the future transparent and efficient gas market in Ukraine and the best guarantee for market players to engage in a sustainable gas transit after 2019, the Commission said, with Šefčovič going so far as to say he welcomed the possibility of making progress on unbundling in the coming months through a mutually agreed goal articulated by the European Commission, the Ukrainian government, Naftogaz and international donors.