Poland and Baltic States To Build Gas Pipeline To Ease Dependence on Russia

Poland will sign a deal with three Baltic states this week to build a pipeline capable of providing most of the gas needs of the countries and ease dependence on Russian suppliers, according to the Financial Times.

The 332-mile pipeline, which will run from Rembelszczyzna in Poland to Jauniunai in Lithuania, will have an initial capacity of 88 billion cubic feet, which could rise to 140 billion and fulfill almost all the demand for gas of the Baltic region, according to the newspaper.

Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, which are all in the European Union (EU), remain heavily dependent on Soviet-era pipelines after five decades of Soviet rule, which ended in 1991. For example, Russia accounts for 80 percent of Lithuania's gas imports and supplies much of the 70 percent of electricity imports into the Baltic states' biggest economy, according to Reuters.

Lithuania has complained in the past that it has been charged more than other European countries for Russian gas - specifically a third more for Russian gas than Germany. Earlier this year the European Commission indicted Russian gas company Gazprom for charging eastern Europe unfairly high prices. Gazprom says the charges are "unfounded."

The pipeline will form a part of the EU's energy union plan - a single market that is designed to reduce dependency on imports. The European Commission will provide 295 million euros ($336 million) of the total 558 million euros ($635 million) cost of the pipeline, and Poland will provide around 120 million euros ($137 million) according to the Financial Times.

National leaders are expected to sign the deal on Thursday during an EU summit in Brussels. Work on the pipeline will begin next year and is expected to be completed by 2019.

Poland is also moving ahead with plans to reduce its gas dependency on Russia. Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz opened a maritime liquefied natural gas terminal in the northwestern city of Swinoujscie, on the Baltic coast, on Monday, AFP reports.

The terminal will have an initial capacity of 177 billion cubic feet per year - a third of the gas consumed by Poles every year. The capacity could reach up to 265 billion cubic feet in the coming years, according to AFP.

"Poland has achieved its strategic goal: we're independent when it comes to gas," Kopacz said at the opening ceremony.