KIEV, Ukraine -- Transits via Ukraine remain the most reliable means of transporting Russian gas to Europe, EU Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger said on Wednesday.
"It is a direct route and it provides the highest technical reliability," Oettinger said during a meeting with Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov in Kiev.
"We are now in a dialogue about how best to invest in Ukraine's transport system... and how this investment may make the best business-plan for the future, more successful than South Stream," he said.
Ukraine is interested in modernizing its transport system and is ready to invest in the project, Azarov said.
"However, we must have guarantees that the EU will buy certain gas volumes from Russia, which will then be transported through our territory," he said.
Oettinger also said Ukraine may join the European Energy Community within 12 months. The community's meeting in 2009 approved Ukraine's membership of the organization on the condition it bring its gas laws closer to EU standards.
Some issues remained to be resolved, he said.
Azarov, however, said that Ukraine had met the membership conditions after passing the relevant law in early July.
The commissioner said the European Commission would consider the law within a week.
Ukraine currently transits 80% of Russian gas to Europe. It has been trying to persuade Russia to give up the South Stream project over fears that it will see a serious decline in gas volumes transited through its territory.
South Stream will deliver Russian gas to Western Europe bypassing Ukraine. The offshore part, operated by Russia's energy giant Gazprom and Italy's ENI, will run from Russia's mainland under the Black Sea to the Bulgarian coast.
The launch of the gas pipeline is scheduled for December 2015.