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EU: Barroso Calls On G8 To Agree Global Energy Principles

An oil field in Russia's Tomsk Oblast (file photo) (ITAR-TASS) BRUSSELS, July 11, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- The EU has said on the eve of the meeting of leaders of the G8 -- comprising the world’s largest industrialized nations and Russia -- that it wants the summit to agree a set of “key principles” for the global energy trade.

Jose Manuel Barroso, the head of the European Commission, who will attend the meeting in St. Petersburg on July 15-17, said today in Brussels that agreement on these principles would benefit all G8 members.

Agreeing With Russia

However, he conceded that Russia remains unlikely to subscribe to terms sought by the EU.

Having been rattled by Russian strong-arm tactics against Ukraine earlier this year, the EU is now seeking to anchor its main energy partner into a stricter framework of global energy rules.

Speaking in Brussels today, Barroso said this was going to be his main message at the G8 summit.

“The challenge for G8 leaders is to agree on a set of key principles which will guide all parties concerned," Barroso said. "This will build real interdependence and mutual trust. And this will create the right climate for long-term investment and [enable] energy supplies to flow freely.”

Barroso attends the summit ex officio as the president of the European Commission. Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen will also attend as head of the government which currently holds the EU’s rotating Presidency. The G8 also includes four individual EU member states -- Germany, Britain, France and Italy -- as well as the United States, Canada, and Japan.

Russia, which holds the G8 Presidency this year, has made global energy security one of the main priorities of the Petersburg summit.

Sticking Points

Questioned by journalists in Brussels, Barroso conceded that Moscow's point of departure in the issue remains far removed from that of the EU.

“No, listen, there is no agreement yet," Barroso said. "Regrettably, a firm compromise on this issue has not yet been found among all the partners at the level of G8 [on issues like] a level playing field, transparency of information, reciprocity of [market] access.... There’s not agreement [yet].”

The principles expounded by Barroso are part of the so-called Energy Charter treaty, which Russia has signed, but has not ratified. In particular, the EU contends, Russia’s refusal to ratify it means EU companies cannot invest safely and easily in Russia, while Russian gas-and-oil-transport infrastructure remains off limits for them.

However, Barroso today partly credited Russian claims that the EU’s energy markets remain closed and difficult to enter for outsiders. He said Europe’s drive for energy security must encompass opening its internal energy market.

Barroso indicated that another area where he expects disagreement at the G8 summit is trade in nuclear energy. He said concerns over proliferation risks, shortcomings of Russian safeguards and controls, and the absence of clear market pricing of nuclear materials in the country mean accord on this issue, which is a high priority for Moscow, is unlikely to be reached in the immediate future.

Getting Around Russia

Barroso also confirmed the EU will continue looking to diversify its energy supplies, meaning it will try to establish direct links with energy rich countries in Central Asia, bypassing Russia.

A senior European Commission official, who asked not to be named, told journalists in Brussels on July 10 that the global “key principles” for the energy trade sought by the EU would also extend to transit countries such as Ukraine and to other neighbors of Russia dependent on its energy supplies.

Barroso today promised that the EU’s focus on energy at the G8 summit will not mean it will neglect human rights concerns -- although he admitted he could not say when and how he will raise them.

'We Don't Trade Energy For Human Rights'

“Surely, if there is [the] occasion, we will raise the issue," Barroso said. "And anyway, I can tell you that our Russian partners know very well what we think about this. I have no doubts about it, and our position is very clear on that matter. And I want to be even more clear -- we don’t trade energy for human rights. This is completely clear.”

Jose Manuel Barroso (epa file photo)

Barroso underscored that he had raised issues relating to Russia’s standards of democracy and human rights at each of his eight meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Barroso noted that he expected to discuss the human rights situation in Europe and elsewhere as well, as "no one is perfect.”

Barroso also said he has taken heart from what he said are recent affirmations by senior Russian officials that Moscow remains committed to “full democracy, not a half democracy.”

Barroso also briefly broached the issue of Chechnya, placing it in the context of the global fight against terrorism. He noted the death of radical field commander Shamil Basayev, saying the EU had condemned the terrorist actions he had undertaken.

However, Barroso warned there should be “no vacuum” on human rights in the fight against terrorism.

EU Expands Eastward

EU Expands Eastward

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