* May 13-16 mission postponed after events in Ukraine
* No new date set
* Dutch were looking to expand economic ties with Russia
(Adds details about gas output)
By Thomas Escritt
AMSTERDAM, April 9 The Netherlands on Wednesday
postponed a mission on energy trade to Russia planned for May
because of Moscow's annexation of Crimea and increased tensions
in eastern Ukraine.
The Netherlands is looking at ways to safeguard its energy
supply after earthquakes caused by gas production forced it to
cut output from the huge Groningen gas field this year. Combined
with dwindling reserves, that may increase the country's demand
for imported gas.
The May 13-16 mission would have brought together high level
government officials and corporate executives from both
The Dutch have been looking to expand economic ties with
Russia, a big export market where the Netherlands is already a
"(The mission) has been postponed. The cabinet made the
decision today, based on recent developments in Ukraine,
particularly in the east of the country," the foreign ministry
said in a statement.
It set no new date for the trip.
"The European Union is reviewing its ties with Russia,"
Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans said. "A successful
mission under the current circumstances is not possible."
The EU imposed travel bans and asset freezes on a group of
Russian officials after Moscow's annexation of Crimea and has
threatened to expand the sanctions if the crisis escalates.
NATO says Russia has massed tens of thousands of troops on
Ukraine's eastern border, though on Wednesday Moscow denied
they posed any threat to the country.
The crisis, the worst between Moscow and the West since the
end of the Cold War, has prompted calls for the EU to reduce its
reliance on Russian gas and oil, though that would inflict pain
on European consumers, including in the Netherlands.
In 2013, the Netherlands bought around 18 billion euros
worth of energy from Russia, more than half of it crude oil.
The Netherlands wants to become a north-western European gas
hub and good relations with Russia, which provides around 35
percent of the EU's gas imports, could help it achieve this.
Long-term cooperation with Russia's Gazprom would also
secure gas flows as natural gas reserves dwindle. The country is
expected to become a net importer of gas by 2025.
The reduction of supply from Groningen this year, combined
with a forecast decline in output from smaller fields, means the
Netherlands is expected to produce a total of 67.4 billion cubic
meters (bcm) of gas this year, down from 79.7 bcm last year, a
spokeswoman for producer Nederlandse Aardolie Maatschappij said.
Last year, the main Dutch gas trading company GasTerra
imported or bought 9.6 bcm of gas, including about 4.5 bcm of
imports each from Russia and Norway. Norwegian pipeline operator
Gassco has said there are strong limits on how much more it can
(Reporting By Thomas Escritt, Anthony Deutsch and Sara Ledwith;
Editing by Gareth Jones and Keiron Henderson)