Putin renews energy pledges to Europe as ‘meat row’ cools

The Russian president has said that Moscow wishes to play by market rules on energy supply and transit as he sought to calm European fears voiced by German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a meeting in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

The meeting took place against a tense background after a commercial dispute between Moscow and Minsk in early January caused an interruption in Russian oil to Europe through Belarus (EURACTIV 9/01/07).

The incident produced unusually strong language in Berlin and Brussels with Merkel and Commission President José Manuel Barroso both describing the interruption “unacceptable”.

“There were irritations at the start of the year, and I made it clear from my side,” said Merkel after the Sochi meeting on 22 January. “I believe we agree here that communication in such situations must be improved to avoid such irritations,” she added, according to the Associated Press.

Putin tried to allay those concerns: “We always say…we want to operate on the basis of a clear, market relationship…clear principles applicable to all,” he told Reuters, adding: “We will in the most active way possible develop our transport network in order to have the opportunity to deliver our resources to our main consumers directly.”

But bilateral EU-Russia talks on energy are currently in limbo. Moscow has made it clear that it would not ratify the 1994 Energy Charter Treaty because it does not take sufficient account of Russia’s commercial interests. And negotiations on a broader trade and co-operation agreement with Europe are stalled because of a row between Russia and Poland over health and safety standards for Polish meat exports.

Just before the Sochi meeting, on 19 January, the Commission signed an agreement with Russia that stopped the country’s ban on Polish meat being extended to the entire EU.

Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou said that he had offered written assurances to Russian Agriculture Minister Gordeyev that new EU members Romania and Bulgaria “are fully applying EU law” on food safety.

Poland is also “in compliance with EU requirements”, Kyprianou said, adding: “We have also started a procedure with Russia which I hope will culminate in the lifting of the embargo on Poland.”

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