Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Energy and the EU

Some energy-related items from the RFE/RL Newsline (November 13):
WILL POLAND BLOCK EU-RUSSIA ENERGY SUMMIT? Polish Economy Minister Piotr Wozniak said in Warsaw on November 10 that his country insists that Russia ratify the transit protocol of the EU-Russia Energy Charter, which Russia signed in 1994 but never ratified, as a precondition to Poland’s backing for any talks on a new EU-Russia partnership agreement, European dailies reported on November 11 and 13 (see “RFE/RL Newsline,” October 30 and 31, 2006). The Energy Charter would require Moscow to open up access to its pipelines. Wozniak and other Polish officials said that Poland will veto any proposal to start talks on a new EU-Russia comprehensive cooperation agreement to replace the current Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, which runs out in 2007, unless Brussels agrees to pressure Moscow to grant greater access to its pipelines. The state-run monopoly Gazprom currently controls Russia’s pipeline system and effectively blocks access to independent gas projects. EU foreign ministers are scheduled to meet in Brussels on November 13 to discuss a possible EU-Russia energy summit. Some news agency reports suggest that Lithuania backs the Polish position. Wozniak also criticized on November 10 the projected Russo-German Nord Stream gas pipeline (formerly the North European Gas Pipeline) on the grounds that it will increase European dependency on Russian gas supplies. He said that Polish suspicions about the deal persist despite efforts by German Chancellor Angela Merkel to reassure Warsaw. He added that Germany should “forget” the project. PM

SPANISH MEDIA REVEAL DETAILS OF EU LEADERS’ VIEWS OF RUSSIA. Minutes of the October 20 working lunch in Lahti, Finland, during which EU leaders outlined their ideas for that same evening’s dinner with Russian President Vladimir Putin, found their way into a wastebasket at the Spanish Foreign Ministry and have been analyzed in depth in the Madrid press in recent days, Germany’s “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” reported on November 11 and Russia’s news.ru on November 13 (see “RFE/RL Newsline,” October 23, 24, and 26, 2006). According to those reports, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said that it is necessary “to keep cool” in dealing with Putin. He argued, however, that Russia and the EU “are interdependent. We need their energy and they need our markets.” Europe must nonetheless seek out other energy suppliers, such as Norway, Algeria, and Turkey, he added. French President Jacques Chirac reportedly agreed with Barroso’s remark about “keeping cool” and said that “Europe’s security and stability depend to a good extent on Russia. Russia has obligations and interests, and so do we. We must demonstrate mutual understanding and concentrate on the most important [things]: the security and stability of Europe.” German Chancellor Merkel is said to have stressed the importance of diversifying Europe’s sources of energy supplies. She said that “one must bring Russia around to more constructive positions. The EU’s negotiating position is sufficiently solid [to do so].” PM

EUROPEANS STRESS THEIR OWN EXPERIENCES IN DEALING WITH RUSSIA. According to the minutes of the EU summit in Lahti, Finland, Polish President Lech Kaczynski agreed with Chancellor Merkel about the importance of energy diversification, Germany’s “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” reported on November 11. He also stressed the importance of “stabilizing the situation in Georgia.” Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen is said to have argued that the EU leaders should bring up Georgia and Chechnya with President Putin. The leaders of the three Baltic states reportedly noted their concerns about possible environmental disasters and reductions in energy supplies as a result of eventual accidents at refineries or along pipelines in Russia. Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus is said to have called attention to the extent to which the Baltic states are geographically “isolated” from the EU’s internal market. He thanked Germany and other EU partners for their help in overcoming this obstacle. Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany reportedly stressed that Russia’s relations with its EU partners are “asymmetrical” and that Russia “could cut off [energy] supplies for a month and cause us damage without suffering themselves.” Czech President Vaclav Klaus is said to have noted that the underlying reason for the diversity of views around the table is that the respective countries have different geographical situations and different historical experiences. EU foreign- and security-policy chief Javier Solana reportedly argued that all potential energy suppliers are unstable, with the exception of Norway. He urged EU member states to reconsider their positions on nuclear energy with that in mind. PM

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