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Plans for creating EU’s Energy Union spell no drama for Russia

February 27, 2015, 18:14 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila

MOSCOW, February 27. /TASS/. Creation of the EU’s Energy Union, implying the national governments will delegate considerable powers to the European Commission, will be a no easy task and require much time to accomplish, polled Russian analysts say with certainty. Although Russia’s providers of energy resources will be experiencing certain inconveniences, if this strategy materializes, it will not pose any serious problems to Russia’s long-term interests, they believe.

According to the strategy, the European countries will have to coordinate with the European Commission all of their future energy import contracts, in particular, when gas is involved. The new arrangement will apply to both inter-governmental agreements and to commercial contracts. The European Commission wants to take part in such negotiations and to influence the content of future agreements, in particular, to ensure they contain some standard terms. In fact, this means that decisions on transactions will be made not by individual European countries proceeding from their national interests, but by European bureaucrats.

Brussels makes no secret of the fact that one of the main reasons behind the creation of the Economic Union is an attempt to ease Europe’s dependence on Russian gas. Russia is the largest provider of oil, petroleum products and gas and one of the largest suppliers of coal and nuclear fuel to the European Union, but it is absent from the list of strategic partners.

The European Union will consider the possibility of reformatting energy relations with Russia when conditions permit — this is the sole reference to Russia in the European strategy.

"In the documents that have already been made public Russia is not considered as one of the key energy partners. That means Europe has set a strategic course towards easing its energy dependence on Russia to the maximum possible extent," says the director of strategic analysis at the FBK consultancy, Igor Nikolayev.

True, the discussion and adoption of this strategy will be tough-going, because the governments of some European countries are far from enthusiastic about the need to delegate their powers to the European commission, the analyst said. But a compromise will be achieved in the end, he believes.

"Russia will have to get used to this somehow. Some steps have already taken along these lines. Last year some energy supply contracts were reconsidered. Russia agreed to lower prices to conclude contracts for longer periods. In the future it will have to display flexibility on the price issue to retain its market," Nikolayev believes.

"The European Commission has long been trying to do something of the sort. Now it has taken advantage of the crisis to try to strip the EU member-states of their powers," the deputy chief of the world economy chair at the Higher School of Economics, Leonid Grigoriev, told TASS. "This is precisely the aim of the third energy package, which envisages certain restrictions, too. As soon as it takes effect, there will be no chance of laying a single pipeline without the European Commission’s administrative approval."

At the same time Grigoriev warned against overdramatizing the situation. "Long-term contracts are not in jeopardy. The documents have been worded quite skillfully. They are not aimed directly against Russia. Their real purpose is to prevent the European countries from conducting direct negotiations with Moscow."

This will create extra problems for Gazprom and other providers of energy resources, but one should not remember that Russia is supplying to Europe something that Europe lacks, Grigoriev said. "This may be not very good news, but it is not dramatic from the standpoint of the country’s long-term economic interests."

Assistant lecturer at the foreign regional studies and international cooperation chair at the presidential academy RANEPA, Roman Andreyeshchev, recalls there have been three energy packages so far, but none of them achieved the desired effects, because a situation in which all EU member-states may be conducting the same energy policy is impossible in principle. "Different countries have different access to resources and different providers. Certain things that may be beneficial, say, to France, other countries, such Poland and Slovakia may find disadvantageous," Andreyeshchev told TASS. "Conditions are so different that unifying them would be hardly possible. For instance, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia are 100-percent dependent on Russian oil. It is practically impossible to imagine they will succeed in finding alternative providers prepared to deliver fuel at the same prices. The gas supply situation is basically the same."


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