Russia Faces Angry EU in Energy Dispute | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 09.01.2007
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Russia Faces Angry EU in Energy Dispute

German Chancellor Merkel said Tuesday that disruption of oil supplies to Europe was destroying confidence in Moscow. Her comments come a day before the EU unveils its official energy strategy.

Both Merkel and Barroso gave Russia a poor report card on Tuesday

Both Merkel and Barroso gave Russia a poor report card on Tuesday

German Chancellor Angela Merkel appeared to take a dim view of Russia on Tuesday following its suspension of oil deliveries through the Druzhba pipeline in Belarus which hit supplies in Germany and Poland.

Merkel said the move destroyed confidence in Russia as an energy supplier.

"It is not acceptable when there are no consultations about such moves," Merkel told reporters after meeting with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso in Berlin.

"That repeatedly destroys confidence and you cannot build cooperation based on true mutual trust in this way," she said.

The German cabinet and members of the European Commission on Tuesday met in Berlin to debate issues related to securing Europe’s energy supply. The meeting had been planned with a view to coordinating activities within the current German presidency of the 27-member bloc, but took on added urgency because of the ongoing spat between Moscow and Minsk, which on Monday led to the disruption of gas supplies to Poland and Germany.

Barroso: "Unacceptable" move

Barroso too criticized Russia for its role in the oil crisis and urged Moscow and Minsk to find a quick solution to their dispute.

Weißrussland Russland Öl Druschba Öltanks in Mozyr Ölrafenerie

Oil tanks of the Druzhba pipeline in the southeastern Belarusian city of Mozyr

"It is unacceptable for either supplier or transit countries to take measures that impact on partner countries without consultation," Barroso said. "It once again demonstrates that we need a common energy policy."

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that Western consumers must be shielded from the effects of an oil transit row with Belarus that has hit supplies to the EU.

Putin told government ministers it was "necessary to continue negotiations with our Belarusian partners" and to "do everything to secure the interests of Western consumers."

However, he said that it might be necessary to cut Russian oil production due to the shutdown of the Druzhba pipeline through Belarus in a tariff dispute. The pipeline accounts for a third of Russia's total oil exports. Negotiations to restart supplies showed no sign of making headway in Moscow.

Merkel urges energy diversity

Merkel said the current row over oil supplies between Russia and Belarus made it abundantly clear that the 27-nation bloc needed to drastically reduce its dependence on Russian energy sources.

Russian oil and gas supplies currently make up about one third of all energy imports in Germany, and there’s a growing sense of unease over the Kremlin’s potential ability to use western energy dependence as a sharp political weapon.

"We’re in agreement with the European Commission that every member country will be given the same amount of assistance and solidarity when it comes to energy supply problems," Merkel said. "But the current crisis also shows that in order to become more independent, we first have to redouble our own efforts to achieve higher energy efficiency and arrive at a more competitive energy market."

Merkel said that Europe needed to draw its energy from a varied mix of sources with particular emphasis on renewable energy in order to improve efficiency.

Earlier, Merkel also indicated in an interview that she may rethink Germany's long-planned nuclear phase-out plan which foresees shutting down all the country's nuclear plants by 2020.

EU energy plan already controversial

The European Commission has long been seeking instruments to secure energy safety and decrease the EU’s dependence on gas and oil. In a new policy strategy to be unveiled on Wednesday, the European Commission will call for "a new industrial revolution" in the energy sector to boost competition, protect the climate and ensure security of supply.

The policy blueprint however is likely to cause controversy.

Atomkraftwerk Grohnde bei Hameln

The EU's promotion of nuclear energy in its draft policy remains controversial

According to media reports, the EU's new energy policy will call for building "cleaner" coal plants. It will also promote the use of nuclear energy as an alternative to fossil fuels because of the lower greenhouse emissions generated by nuclear plants. The draft policy will however stress that it is up to national governments to decide whether to produce nuclear energy.

Critics in Germany, particularly those from the Social Democratic Party (SPD) who are against extending the lifespan for nuclear plants, have already panned the EU's draft policy on energy.

"It belongs in the dustbin," Hans-Josef Fell, SPD spokesman on energy affairs told news agency AP.

In addition, the draft policy's recommendations for boosting competition in the energy sector are also under fire from Germany and France. Plans foresee reducing the might of big European utilities by either breaking up companies that own power stations and distribution grids such as E.ON or RWE in Germany and France's EDF.

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