Following the trilateral ministerial talks with Russia and Ukraine in Berlin on the long-term transit of gas to Europe on July 17, European Commission Vice President for the Energy Union Maroš Šefčovič said the three sides have reached a joint agreement that “the meeting was not a one-off exercise.”

Šefčovič joined Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak and Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin and the Russian and Ukrainian delegations in Berlin for the gas talks.

“This has been a long but a productive day. I am pleased to announce that today, we have managed to establish a trilateral process with Russia and Ukraine,” Šefčovič said, adding, “We have also agreed that we need to separate old and new issues.”

According to the Commission Vice President, all three sides will now mandate their high-level experts to work on four issues: The European Union’s gas needs; ways in which the EU law applied in Ukraine would impact on the future transit contract; certified transmission system operator; and the tariffs.

“They should meet in mid-September. This will prepare grounds for the next trilateral meeting at the political level that should take place in the course of October. In fact, this will be the frequency of our trilateral talks – approximately six to eight weeks,” Šefčovič said.

“To have everyone around one table today and to start building trust was of vital importance. As you know, time is passing quickly and every day we are getting closer to the end of 2019. You all know the fundamental question – whether on 1 January 2020, we will have an agreement on the long-term transit of Russian gas to the EU through Ukraine in a commercially viable manner,” Šefčovič said.

The Commission Vice President hailed the high-level participation from both, Russia and Ukraine, which was necessary to start this process going. “I hope that we will continue to see a firm commitment on both sides to reach an agreement at the end of this process. I am convinced that such an agreement is in everyone’s best interest. So once again, this was a good day, marking a start of what will be a complex, difficult process. A trilateral process is the most effective platform to seek a satisfactory solution to the gas matters important for involved parties,” Šefčovič said.

Regarding the meeting in Berlin, Alexey Miller, the CEO of Russian gas monopoly Gazprom, said the main issue that predetermines the future relations between Gazprom and Naftogas and the extension of the gas transit contract after 2019 is the settlement of controversial issues, and resuming the balance of interests and the symmetric responsibilities of the parties under current contracts. “We are waiting for the Appeal court decision. The volume of gas to be transited through Ukraine after 2019 was not the subject of today’s discussion. The today’s consultations cannot be regarded as negotiations between the two companies,” Miller said.

Novak said that the transit would be extended when legal issues are settled with Ukraine. “In my opinion, the negotiations have been constructive enough. We exchanged information, exchanged views on the current situation and the prospects for gas supplies to European consumers through the territory of Ukraine,” RT quoted Novak as saying after negotiations in Berlin.

Šefčovič has urged Russia to continue sending gas through Ukraine even if the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany is constructed. Nord Stream 2 will allow Germany to import more gas directly from Russia, bypassing Ukraine.

At a press conference of US President Donald J Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, following their talks in Helsinki on July 16, the latter told reporters that Trump voiced his concerns about the possibility of disappearance of transit through Ukraine after Nord Stream 2. “And I reassured Mr. President that Russia stands ready to maintain this transit. Moreover, we stand ready to extend this transit contract that is about to expire next year, in case — if the dispute between the economic entities dispute will be settled in the Stockholm Arbitration Court,” Putin said.