By Alexander Tanas
CHISINAU (Reuters) -Moldova’s parliament on Friday approved a government-requested state of emergency until Nov. 20 as it tries to ease gas shortages amid soaring world energy prices.
Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita said the government had been unable to agree on a new energy deal with its main supplier, Russia’s Gazprom, and that a state of emergency would allow it to buy gas from other sources.
Moldova’s contract with Gazprom expired at the end of September. The government asked for an extension but balked at the price of $790 per 1,000 cubic metres.
“We are in a critical situation. The pressure in the gas transportation system is at a critical level for the functioning of natural gas transportation systems,” Gavrilita said, without saying how close the country was to running out altogether.
She said Moldova Gas, 51% owned by Gazprom, had not supplied the required volume of gas and the country has been forced to buy from other sources.
Moldova wants to negotiate with neighbouring Romania and Ukraine while hoping to sign a new contract with Gazprom by the end of the month.
Difficulties in gas supplies ahead of the winter could be a test for pro-European Moldova’s authorities.
President Maia Sandu, who favours closer ties with the European Union, defeated her pro-Russian predecessor, Igor Dodon, in a presidential election last year.
The opposition blamed Sandu for the gas crisis, saying she should have gone to Moscow in person to negotiate a new deal. Sandu said the deal should be negotiated by companies and not the president.
The government said this week two senior officials would travel to Moscow for gas talks. Gazprom was not immediately available for comment.
Ukrainian state gas transmission operator GTSOU has said Moldova is receiving gas from Ukraine, but GTSOU head Sergiy Makogon told Reuters the supplied volumes “are only enough for 67% of Moldova’s needs”.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told his Moldovan counterpart in Kyiv that Ukraine would continue pumping gas to Moldova.
Moldova, sandwiched between Ukraine and EU member Romania, consumes 2.8 billion cubic metres of gas per year.
(Writing by Matthias Williams and Pavel Polityuk; Editing by Edmund Blair and Nick Macfie)