One voice or many? Debate for EU and Baltic energy ministers
Oct 3, 2007, 15:28 GMT
Jurmala, Latvia - When it comes to energy issues, it's a conflict between the European Union's 27 national interests and a common energy policy.
The frequent conflict of these interests has been at the heart of talks in Latvia among foreign ministers from the Netherlands and Luxembourg, a representative from Belgium and foreign ministers of three Baltic states in the resort town of Jurmala, near Riga.
'In general, we, in the European Union, should deal with energy security and energy supplies for the future,' Dutch Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Verhagen told journalists as the talks drew to a close Wednesday.
A common energy policy, he said, 'is one of the issues that must be dealt with not only on an individual basis but also in a European approach.'
The paradox became apparent when a reporter asked Verhagen about a common policy on Estonia's decision to deny Nord Stream AG access to its waters for the construction of a 1,200-kilometre gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea - something Western EU countries desperately need.
'I'm not against the Nord Stream line, but I'm in favour of energy solidarity and energy security for all the member states,' he said, acknowledging every member state's right to use its own gas suppliers.
The common energy policy has become a buzzword in political circles in recent month - and not just on an EU level.
It is especially important for the three Baltic states, which have been the location for numerous conferences on energy issues in recent months.
The next such conference, to be held in Vilnius next week, plans to address the issues related to global energy security challenges and the future guidelines for the EU external energy policy.
Russia's Gazprom is the only supplier of natural gas to some of the EU's eastern neighbours, including the Baltic states, which joined the bloc in 2004.
Therefore it is not surprising that Latvian Foreign Minister Artis Pabriks, speaking on behalf of the six ministers at the press conference in Jurmala, suggested Gazprom's action against Ukraine was related to the outcome of the country's recent parliamentary elections.
'There is no doubt that energy plays not only an economic but also a political role in the 21st-century Russian-EU relationship,' he said.
'I think the EU has to be ready for such issues in the future as well, and I must say that this discussion between Russia and Ukraine is partially connected with the recent elections in Ukraine,' he said.
The Russian gas giant threatened on Tuesday to cut gas supplies to Ukraine by the end of the month if an outstanding bill of 1.3 billion dollars remained unpaid.© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur