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Russia-EU Summit Ends with Differences Over Energy

  • Peter Fedynsky

A tense summit meeting between Russia and the European Union has failed to provide assurances Europe will not face another mid-winter gas cutoff. Russian President Dmitri Medvedev has also warned that stronger European ties with former Soviet republics should not turn into an anti-Russian coalition.

Meeting in the city of Khabarovsk in the Russian Far East, Russian and EU leaders failed to bridge differences that block assurances of reliable gas supplies to Europe. Russian President Dmitri Medvedev said his country has no problem supplying the fuel or honoring its delivery commitments to Europe. He blamed the continent's recent energy disruptions on the inability of Ukraine to pay for its own supplies. About 20 percent of Europe's supply of natural gas comes from Russia through Ukrainian pipelines.

Mr. Medvedev says assurances should be provided by those who pay for the gas, and there is room here for cooperation.

The Russian leader notes that if Ukraine has the money, fine, though he expresses doubt that it does.

Russia prepared to help Ukraine

He says partners in such circumstances help their partners. President Medvedev said Russia is prepared to help Ukraine, but wants a considerable part of this work to be assumed by the European Union and countries interested in reliable and secure energy cooperation.

Russia is also seeking to replace the so-called Energy Charter Treaty, a 1990's agreement on integration of European and former Soviet energy sectors. Moscow signed, but did not ratify the treaty, which would provide foreign commercial access to Russian pipelines. The European Union does not want the Charter scrapped, but EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said Russia has put forth interesting suggestions.

"We could consider those proposals in the process of revision of the Energy Charter Treaty," he said.

Moscow suspicious of EU partnership program

Moscow is also suspicious of the EU's Eastern Partnership Program with several former Soviet republics. President Medvedev warned in Khabarovsk that the outreach program should not turn into an anti-Russian coalition.

He says what concerns Russia is that in some countries, the European Partnership is seen as a partnership against Russia. The Kremlin leader says he does not have in mind EU leadership nor any of the partners at the table [in Khabarovsk], but rather other countries.

The Partnership Program is designed to enhance Europe's relationship with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine.

Positive comments about summit

Despite tensions at the summit, Czech President Vaclav Klaus said the summit increased mutual trust between the EU and Russia. The Czech Republic holds the EU's rotating presidency.

The venue chosen by Russia, the city of Khabarovsk, is near China, about 8,000 kilometers east of Brussels. President Medvedev made a point on Thursday of noting EU leaders would understand how great Russia is by having to fly so far.

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