Russia oil spat fuels EU case for common energy policy

The Commission was quick to use the Russia-Belarus oil dispute to make its case for stronger EU co-operation on energy as it prepares to table ambitious proposals today (10 January 2007).

The Commission reacted heatedly towards Russia and Belarus in the trade dispute that saw Moscow cut off a major oil pipeline to Western Europe on 8 January (EURACTIV 9/01/07). 

“It is unacceptable that energy suppliers or transit countries do not inform their counterparts about decisions that may affect their supplies,” said Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs.

Although strategic oil stocks are enough to prevent supply disruptions for more than 120 days, he said the dispute “has to be taken seriously”. “Recent developments confirm again that Europe needs to act to limit its external vulnerability to imported hydrocarbon,” Piebalgs said

“It also reflects negatively on the image of the reliability of the two countries as energy partners for the Union,” he added.

The criticisms were echoed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Commission President José Manuel Barroso who were in Berlin to discuss the priorities of the German EU Presidency.

“I support what José Manuel Barroso said, namely that it’s unacceptable when there are no consultations on such actions,” Merkel said, adding: “That hurts trust and it makes it difficult to build a cooperative relationship based on trust.”

In Vilnius, Lithuanian Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas told national radio: “This case has showed, once again, that with different EU countries acting on their own, a lasting energy supply policy with Russia can hardly be achieved.”

The Commission indicated that it was convening its Oil Supply Group on Thursday (11 January) “to analyse the impact of the recent cuts in oil supplies …and to possibly explore measures in the case of any shortage of oil products”.

Merkel is scheduled to travel to Moscow on 21 January to discuss the renewal of an EU-Russia Co-operation and Partnership Agreement (PCA) where energy supply and investment is set to feature prominently.

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