How to deal with Russia’s emergence as an energy power will top the EU’s agenda when the leaders meet in northern Finland – the European Union’s current presiding nation. The centrepiece of an encounter with Russian President Vladimir Putin is a dinner this Friday where Finland and the European Commission will speak for the EU.
The Finns have warned that the bloc must speak as with one voice, or risk its own weakening. Russia is the source of a fifth of the bloc’s oil and gas imports. Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said he is optimistic. He said: “We are the biggest buyers in the world of energy, the European Union. It can be a win-win situation, so to answer your question, our leverage is precisely our market, our market. And this is the message we are going to convey in a constructive but firm way to president Putin.”
Concern over fair dealings heightened recently when Russian gas monopoly Gazprom moved to close the giant new Shtokman gas field to foreign partners. Russia analyst Michael Emerson at the Centre for European Policy Studies said transition to more western ways of working could be expected to take time: “This has to be a long game on both sides. Investments are being made in gas pipelines, investments are 20-year, 30-year projects, and the process of democratisation or Europeanisation of Russian society is also a matter for a generation or two.” Putin will also face questions over efforts to find who was responsible for the killing of investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya, which has added to mounting concerns in the West about the freedom of the Russian media to criticise Putin.