EU and Russia stick to their positions
By Marie-Martine Buckens | Tuesday 05 June 2012
Although Moscow does not – yet? – seem to have obtained a relaxing of the EU rules governing the supply of gas in the Union from third countries, Russian President Vladimir Putin confirmed at the EU-Russia summit, held on 4-5 June in St Petersburg, that the Russian gas pipeline South Stream will go ahead. Putin said that construction was to start in December 2012, lasting between 18-24 months.
In his meeting with European Commission President José Manuel Barroso and Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger, the Russian president reiterated his request for a relaxing of the rules of the EU’s third energy package, which lays down the separation of energy production and transport activities. This provision does not sit well with the Russian gas giant Gazprom, nor does the ‘third country’ clause, which provides for the certification of transport operators that are controlled by foreign investors. This clause is known by the Russians as the ‘anti-Gazprom’ clause.
The question has several times been the subject of bitter discussions between Russians and Europeans. In February 2011, during his meeting with Barroso, Putin had already started to threaten that “the mechanical implementation of this legislation could lead to an increase of prices on the European market”. Barroso replied that the EU has “understood Russia’s concerns about the third package on the liberalisation of the energy market and hopes to find a mutually acceptable solution”. The South Stream gas pipeline is to transport Russian gas from the EU via the Black Sea – in order to avoid Ukraine, habitually the main transit country, but a country where price disputes with Moscow have led to temporary interruptions in the gas supply to EU countries. With this new gas pipeline, Moscow hopes to secure its position as the EU’s main gas supplier.