The current European Union president, the Czech Republic, is under
pressure to overcome failed talks with key
former Soviet states on an energy deal. Negotiations on reducing Europe's dependency on Russian
natural gas are one of several key challenges facing the Czech
Republic's new government.
Prime Minister Jan Fischer and his cross-party
government replaced the ousted center-right cabinet of Mirek Topolanek
during the weekend. It is not clear what it will be able to do to help
revive energy talks with Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, strategic ex-Soviet states that have refused to sign an energy deal with the EU.
negotiations in the Czech capital, Prague, the three natural-gas
producing nations were not convinced by E.U. offers of more trade and
stronger transport links in exchange for their participation in a
multi-billion-dollar gas pipeline, known as Nabucco.
pump gas from the Caspian Sea region through Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania
and Hungary to Austria. European Commission President Jose Manuel
Barroso admits there are reservations about the plan.
they are stating a position that they consider basically their policy
is that they [pump] the gas [to] the border. But [after that] it is up
to others to engage. They do not want to assume any legal obligations," Barroso said.
countries, including Azerbaijan, Turkey and Georgia have signed the
deal, but analysts say that is not enough to make the project work.
The European Union plans close cooperation with Middle Eastern nations
such as Iraq and Egypt.
The Nabucco pipeline aims to bypass
Russia and Ukraine, after natural gas price disputes between the two
neighbors led to serious disruptions in supplies to the rest of Europe
earlier this year.
Yet the Czech Republic's ambassador-at-large
for energy security, Vaclav Bartuska, has told Russia Today television
his government also believes that Europe will have to continue to
closely cooperate with Moscow.
not think that exchanging Russia for Turkmenistan or Ukraine for
Turkey, if it was the only step, would be that very smart," said Bartuska.
addition to the pipeline, the new Czech government faces other E.U.
challenges, including a crucial June summit that will deal with the
so-called Lisbon Treaty. The proposed treaty, which replaces plans for
an E.U. constitution, is opposed by the Czech Republic's President
Prime Minister Fischer and President Klaus have
yet to decide who will be in charge of this and other events of the
E.U. presidency. Despite his criticism of the European Union,
President Klaus has agreed to lead European summits with Russia and
South Korea later this month.
Soon after the
Czech Republic's E.U. presidency ends, the country is expected to hold
early elections in October. Prime Minister Fischer has already said he
does not want to stay in politics, but instead return to his old job
as head of the Czech Statistical Office.