European Union countries “really need” gas supplies from Algeria and developing a strategic partnership on energy is a top priority, EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said in Algiers .
Ferrero Waldner told reporters on a visit to Algiers that the 27-member European bloc, which relies on Russia for a quarter of its gas supplies, was seeking to diversify its sources of energy.
“We are developing a strategic energy partnership and I’ve decided to make this a top priority,” she said in answer to questions at a news conference following talks with Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and Prime Minister Abdellaziz Belkhadem.
“We are in talks on a memorandum of understanding on energy,” she said. “We really need gas. We have Russia as a supplier, but we are seeking to diversify our sources.”
Ferrero Waldner gave no details of what the memorandum would cover but added that oil and gas were the EU’s top priorities in its dealings with Algeria, which she called “a reliable supplier.”
Algeria is the European Union’s third biggest supplier of gas and 13th biggest supplier of oil, she said.
Ukraine hinted on Tuesday it would cut flows of Russian gas to Europe through its pipelines if it ran short of domestic supplies, after Moscow said it would halve deliveries to Kiev in a row over payments.
A similar dispute between Moscow and Kiev at the start of 2006 disrupted supplies to Europe, leading to questions about Russia ‘s reliability as an energy supplier.
Ferrero Waldner added that during her two-day stay in Algiers she had signed an agreement providing 40 million euros in funding for a programme to support small-and medium-sized businesses and had also discussed security, trade, investment promotion, immigration and economic reforms with Algerian leaders.