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Russia's softer tone on energy for the EU

brussels bureau

Russia's softer tone on energy for the EU


Russia has changed its tone on supplying energy to Europe.

Reassurance has replaced the confrontational in Moscow’s message to EU capitals.

Last winter, Russian gas supplies crossing Ukraine were abruptly suspended for a time, escalating tensions with its important western customers.

But now, in his annual address to the nation, President Vladimir Putin said:

“I am convinced that only through efficient energy use will Russia be able to keep its dominant and stable market position in the long-term. And Russia could play a positive role in creating a unified European energy strategy.”

At a conference organised by the European Enterprise Institute in Brussels on EU-Russian relations and security of energy supply, former Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, who is also a possible candidate in the 2008 presidential race, offered his point of view.

He said:

“In cases where signed contracts exist, it is inadmissible to reduce deliveries of natural gas to European countries.”

In the wake of the Ukraine gas crisis came Russian monopoly Gazprom’s anger at being kept from buying British utility Centrica. Competition expert Alan Riley says competence, market liberalisation, modernisation and investment are interlinked.

“The real problem is not so much the threat of the energy weapon, it is the problem that they can not deliver supply reliably simply because the mismanagement of the company.”

The EU told Russia last week that Gazprom would not face discrimination when investing in the 25-nation bloc but that the gas giant’s export
monopoly could be an obstacle to winning competition clearance.

It would be subject to the same legal reviews as any other company making acquisitions in Europe.

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