Paul Taylor Great Debate– Paul Taylor is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

The gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine that has left hundreds of thousands of Europeans shivering in the winter cold is bound to accelerate plodding European Union efforts to build a common energy policy.

The cut-off of Russian gas supplies to Europe via Ukraine highlighted how little progress the 27-nation EU has made in connecting national energy networks and diversifying supplies since the first such crisis three years ago.

“A similar situation occurred in 2006 and we Europeans now feel guilty about not having done what we said we would do,” said an EU energy official, who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of his position.

Unlike 2006, when the Europeans broadly sided with Ukraine’s pro-Western, democratic government, the EU has remained strictly neutral this time in what it regards as mostly a commercial dispute over gas pricing and unpaid bills.