Energy: A Key to the New EU-Russian Relations
Abstract:EU-Russia relations have stalled. Notwithstanding the signing of some important contracts and the initialling of some projects and setting aside the formal energy dialogue between the two, no visible progress of real importance has been made to date. There are many reasons for this. Firstly, a change in the whole global framework around the dialogue has contributed to the deadlock in relations. Russian policies towards Georgia; a new round of the gas price-fixing war with Ukraine, which led to an interruption of gas deliveries to Europe in January 2009; uncertainty in energy talks between Russia and Belarus in early 2010; and Russian domestic economic policies have each made a negative contribution to the evolution of the dialogue. Energy strategies and practical policies between the two players have diverged dramatically both in priorities and basic principles. This came to mean a further loss of common ground to reach common goals.
It is time to ask some pertinent questions: Is there any hope at all for the future of the EU-Russia Energy Dialogue? How will the 2008-2009 international financial crisis affect energy links between Russia and the EU? What kind of changes should we provide for, to assure a future secure energy order in Europe and around the world?
One fundamental consideration in the EU-Russia energy relationship is that whilst the EU can diversify its energy supplies in order to be less dependent on Russia, Russia remains heavily reliant on Europe in the creation of a prosperous energy-based future. This consideration could bring a new dimension to the energy dialogue, as well as to remodelling the whole set of relations between suppliers and consumers of energy.
Energy dialogue has been with us now for ten years. On November 2010, the Coordinators of the EU-Russia Energy Dialogue, the EU energy Commissioner Günther H. Oettinger and Russian Energy Minister Sergey Shmatko, organised a conference to mark the 10th anniversary of the EU-Russia Energy Dialogue. It is noteworthy that the joint report, drawn up for the event was entitled: “EU-Russia Energy Dialogue 2000-2010: Opportunities for our Future Energy Partnership”. In looking to the future, the implication is clear that there are no great achievements to celebrate to date. We must ask why this should be so.