OPINION: Anticipated completion of the controversial Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline project later this year should be matched by strong European support for efforts by Ukraine, Poland and Slovakia to increase energy independence from Russia.

With the pipeline carrying Russian gas across the Baltic Sea to Germany, Russia's state controlled gas monopoly Gazprom will be able to halt gas transit flows to Europe via Ukraine and Slovakia, and also via Poland.

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Gazprom is contractually bound to continue sending gas via Ukraine until the end of 2024.

However, it has no such obligation to Poland after their agreement expired last year.

European gas market legislation requires Nord Stream 2 to allow access to half of its transportation capacity to third parties, restricting Gazprom to using just 27.5 billion cubic metres of its annual capacity.

However, Gazprom is seeking a waiver from this requirement for Nord Stream 2.

The company has previously cited various reasons to justify halting the transit across Ukraine, including alleged theft of its gas in the country and technical difficulties within its own pipeline network — and there is no guarantee that similar arguments will not be made as a pretext to halt transits via Ukraine or Poland.

Last week's G7 summit it the UK may have failed to cover the Nord Stream 2 issue, but Ukraine has revealed alternative proposals to keep gas flowing through the country to Europe.

Yury Vitrenko, the recently appointed executive chairman of the country's gas importer and distributor Naftohaz Ukrainy, told the Financial Times newspaper that Ukraine will take legal steps to ensure Gazprom unblocks gas supplies from Central Asian suppliers, such as Turkmenistan.

Ukraine is also pushing Gazprom to establish gas trading points at the Russia-Ukraine border and permit foreign traders to buy Russian gas at these points for delivery to Europe.

European countries should take urgent steps to align with Ukraine's proposals and help reduce the risk of dealing with a halt in Russian gas supplies during upcoming winters.

Important issues: Extinction Rebellion environmental activists with masks of G7 leaders protest in the water in St Ives, Cornwall during the G7 summit as Nord Stream 2 challenges to Europe are forgotten Photo: AFP/SCANPIX

(This is an Upstream opinion article.)