EU-Russia energy talks stalled in Moscow

Commission President José Manuel Barroso came back from a visit to Russia this weekend with no tangible progress on the ‘special relationship’ he intends to foster with Moscow on energy.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said his country will continue to be a reliable energy supplier to Europe but rejected Barroso’s idea on reciprocal access to Russia’s gas pipeline network during a meeting on 17 March.

Barroso described the three hours of informal talks with Putin as “inspiring,” saying Russia’s reluctance to open up its gas pipeline network was to be expected in the short term. “President Putin confirmed the well-known position of Russia at this stage. In the short term, we cannot expect any changes on that position from the Russian side,” newswire Business Online quoted Barroso as saying.

The Barroso-Putin meeting followed talks between energy ministers of the G8 group of industrialised nations in Moscow on 16 March. Ministers at the meeting stepped up the pressure on Russia to ratify the 1994 Energy Charter Treaty, an international agreement that would force Russia to open up its network to foreign companies. Further progress on this issue could take place at the next G8 meeting in St Petersburg in July.

Securing reliable energy supplies from Russia is a key element in the Commission’s plans for a more integrated European energy policy, presented earlier this month. The plans will be discussed at a summit of EU leaders on 23-24 March with the next EU-Russia summit scheduled in Sochi in May.

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