EUobserver has reported that there are warning signs of yet another gas crisis on the horizon, with Ukraine looking for high transit fees. Though the article reads as if everyone involved is trying to give off reassuring signals, budgetary pressures on both Russia and Ukraine (though perhaps particularly Ukraine) may work against a quiet solution.
It's stressed that there are enough reserves to see out any cut-offs in supply:
"The EU's executive body has re-assured, however, that there is "no current threat to supplies to households or to businesses" as emergency oil stocks in the 27-nation bloc stand at comfortable level of 122 days of consumption.
Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic also report having sufficient reserves - 118, 94 and 101 days, respectively - figures well above the mandatory 90 days."
If there is another gas crisis, then the EU's response will be very interesting. By now, the EU's approach should be more coherent, given the regularity of the gas crises, but even beyond that the role of Baroness Ashton, the new High Representative, will be worth watching. Would she prove effective at advocating a common position and articulating it? Would pressure be brought to bear more on Ukraine or on Russia, and how? Would pressure be applied (can it be applied) through the Eastern Partnership?
Since the HR's work will be mostly done behind the scenes, and with so many factors outside her control, it may be a difficult to fairly access her approach, however...