Vienna, June 5 - Neftegaz.RU. The strong bilateral energy relationship between Russia and Austria can only serve to improve energy security in Europe, an Austrian leader said.
Vladimir Putin is on an official visit to Austria this week. Ahead of the meeting, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz told Tass that work on the energy sector had regional implications. «I would like to note that fruitful cooperation of the two very important companies -- Austria's OMV and Russia's Gazprom, which seems to me extremely beneficial for both sides,» he said.
Putin's visit caps at least a week of diplomatic outreach between the 2 countries. Last week, Gazprom and OMV marked 50 years of collaboration. Last month, both sides met in Moscow, noting Russian gas shipments to Austria are already up more than 70 % from last year.
Kurz told the news agency the Austrian gas market was diverse, though Russian gas was an important component. «That seems to me positive not only for Russia, but also for the countries of Europe, and in spite of all the difficulties that had often emerged over the past decades, our cooperation in the energy sector has never been disputed, it has been stable and uninterrupted,» he said.
Most of the Russian gas headed to the European market runs through Soviet-era pipelines in Ukraine. Political turmoil between Kiev and Moscow over gas arrears and later military conflict that followed Ukraine's pivot toward Europe exposed vulnerabilities to European energy security.
Gazprom and OMV are partners in the Nord Stream gas pipeline, which avoids Ukrainian territory by running through the Baltic Sea to Germany. Plans to double the network have been meet with concerns from the United States and Europe, who worry about Gazprom's anti-trust behavior and Russia's tacit strategy of using energy for political leverage.
Washington, for its part, has countered that strategy by trying to get more U.S. gas into the European market. Sanctions pressures, meanwhile, from Washington could impact non-Russian companies like OMV.