EU summit to focus on Russia and energy

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Heads of state and government will try to advance energy talks with Russia at an informal meeting on 20 October. A network of EU energy correspondents is expected to be formed to tackle potential external energy crises.

Russian President Vladimir Putin will be the centre of attention when he joins EU leaders for dinner at the conclusion of a one-day summit in Lahti, Finland on 20 October.

Discussion during the dinner will focus on a strategic partnership between the EU and Russia that includes cooperation on energy issues, the Finnish Presidency said.

“Russia, which accounts for 25% of oil and gas imports, is strategically speaking the Union’s most important energy partner,” said Finnish Minister for European Affairs Paula Lehtomäki at the European Parliament on 11 October.

But the EU would rather see the relation with Russia as one of interdependence: “The EU depends on the energy it imports from Russia, and Russia needs long-term contracts for its energy imports,” Lehtomäki said.

Key to the success of the meeting will be the EU’s ability to speak with one voice on energy matters. And the EU’s single largest potential there lies in the realisation of a common energy market, according to a Commission paper that will form the basis for discussion at the summit.

A truly integrated energy market would “enhance the Union’s coherence and weight externally on energy issues,” the Commission stated. “Coherence between internal and external aspects of energy” should be the EU’s primary objective, said.

To achieve more coherence, the Commission proposes to establish a network of energy correspondents to “share essential information in case of an external energy crisis”. The network would be composed of energy experts from the member states, the Council secretariat and the Commission.

In addition to Russia, the summit will also address extending energy relations with other countries. Discussions will include:

  • The inclusion of Norway and Ukraine to the Energy Community Treaty, which from 1 July 2006, has started applying to relations with the western Balkans (the Treaty extends EU energy legislation to participating countries);
  • the inclusion of Turkey to the Energy Community Treaty in order to realise the country’s potential as a major transit route for oil and gas in the Caspian (e.g: Nabucco gas pipeline project – EURACTIV 27 June 2006), and;
  • financial instruments to develop energy relations with partner countries on infrastructure interconnections, new pipelines, energy efficiency and renewable energy projects (European Investment Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development).

“Whatever way you look at it, more open markets are the key” Lehtomäki said.

On the agenda are external energy relations and the EU's innovation policy. Energy discussions will be based on a Commission paper dated 12 October.

Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) between the EU and Russia is being re-assessed at it reaches its 10th anniversary on 1 December 2007. According to the Commission, negotiations on a renewal of the agreement "offer the opportunity to agree on the objectives and principles of energy cooperation" with Russia.

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