Russia is increasingly using its energy resources as a political tool, former European Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger said on Thursday.

Oettinger said President Vladimir Putin was using Russia’s huge gas reserves to achieve foreign policy goals in eastern Europe.

"Energy should not be a political instrument,” he told the European LPG Conference in Berlin. “It should be just a product beyond political profits."

Noting higher gas prices in eastern Europe compared to those in the west, Oettinger added: "Russia, its neighbors and partners are playing gas prices against Ukraine. Ukraine is our candidate partner in the European Union and a transit country, so it's really a sensitive point.

“The energy sector should have a common understanding and approach on these issues."

Oettinger, currently European digital commissioner, called for a single market for the energy sector, with uniform pricing across Europe.

A energy union package unveiled in Brussels in February calls for greater coordination between EU members to enable a free flow of energy across borders and a secure supply for EU citizens.

The EU's energy union strategy is a part of the bloc's attempts to reduce its energy dependency on external states, including Russia, which is the main supplier of gas to the EU.

The energy union seeks to bring together internal energy supplies to reduce dependence on Russia amid the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and sanctions imposed by the West against key figures in the Russian establishment.

"Europe has to come back to competitiveness,” Oettinger, a member of Germany’s ruling Christian Democrats. “We need new jobs. Energy, which is connected to mobility, plays a central role.

“My vision is to come to a digital union - the Europeanization of digital policies. I invite the LPG industry to join us on this journey, creating an effective connected digital single market.”

The EU, the world’s largest energy importer, imports 53 percent of its energy at an annual cost of around €400 billion ($430 billion), according to Eurostat.

Oettinger said that energy efficiency and diversification of sources are key points for the EU, adding: "[The] LPG industry is a part of our strategy to diversify routes, sources and to reduce dependency on anyone, any country or any gas pipeline.

“LPG may have a major role in the energy market… Diversification gives LPG a chance to play an increasing role in our future energy policies and in our future energy sources from coal to lignite."