Ukraine’s Prime Minister Mykola Azarov has called for the establishment of a consortium of Ukraine, Russia and the European Union to modernise and manage the Ukrainian natural gas transport system.

Azarov said that the Ukrainian government had proposed transferring control of the gas transport system to a trilateral consortium. He said such an arrangement would “ensure its transparent and fair administration and be engaged in its modernisation, which will cost €4.5bn”.

He added that the need for such a deal had been highlighted by recent gas disputes between Ukraine and Russia.

In 2008 and 2009 a pricing dispute between the countries left large parts of Europe struggling for gas supplies.

Marlene Holzner, spokeswoman for EU Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger said: “The EU has consistently emphasised that it is up to Ukraine to decide how to manage its gas transmission system and should Ukraine and other parties be willing to move in the direction of a consortium, including the EU gas industry, the European Commission is ready to play a facilitating role, provided that the application of EU and international law, including as enshrined in the Energy Community Treaty, is guaranteed.”