WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Ukraine became an association country of the International Energy Agency on Tuesday, with both stressing that closer cooperation will help Europe face what is expected to be a hard winter amid an energy crisis tied to Russia's war in Ukraine .
“I believe this winter may become a historic test of European solidarity,” IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said during the ceremony in Warsaw, Poland.
The move reflects Ukraine’s crucial role for European and global energy security and shows the Paris-based agency’s support for the country as it battles Russia's invasion. Russia has cut off or reduced natural gas supplies to a dozen countries in Europe, including Poland, in retaliation for sanctions on Moscow.
There are also fears that a key natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany won't reopen after scheduled maintenance this week. A further drawdown in flows of natural gas used to power industry, generate electricity and heat homes threatens European efforts to refill storage for the cold months and avert an economic crisis .
“When there is not enough gas (due to cuts by chief supplier Russia), Europe may be called to show the full strength of its union,” Birol said.
Ukraine became the 11th association country of the organization, joining Argentina, Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Morocco, Singapore, South Africa and Thailand. There are 31 full member countries, including most big economies such as the U.S., United Kingdom, Germany, France and Japan.
Birol and Ukrainian Minister of Energy German Galushchenko signed the documents in the capital of Poland, which supports neighboring Ukraine in its fight and has taken in millions of refugees from the war.
The move will allow Ukraine to work closer with the IEA on data-sharing, analysis and best practices as well as managing energy demand. It also will support Ukraine’s reconstruction efforts.
Galushchenko said his country wants to rebuild its energy system in a new way, using the most advanced technologies, and that the support of the IEA may be crucial for the task.
Birol said he was impressed with the unanimous support that all member governments gave last month to Ukraine's application and to bringing it into the “IEA family.”
The IEA member and associate countries represents more than 75% of global energy demand.