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Thursday, April 17, 2008

“EU simply wants timely gas supplies without any political games”

Marek Sivec, the vice-President of the European Parliament, is interviewed in Moscow April 16, 2008. // The European Parliament’s vice-president speaks on relations with Russia
Apr. 17, 2008 - Kommersant - Marek Sivec, the vice-President of the European Parliament, arrived on an official visit to Moscow yesterday. In his interview to Kommersant’s correspondent Alexander Gabuev, Sivec said why the signing of the EU-Russia cooperation agreement is stuck, and what Brussels expects of Dmitry Medvedev.
“The impossibility to sign the new partnership and cooperation treaty is nearly the chief difficulty in the EU-Russia relations. Already two EU-Russia summits have actually failed, and the treaty has never been signed. Why?”
“Moreover, it was not discussed yet, apart from not being signed. Poland’s and Lithuania’s veto is just the tip of the iceberg. We believe the new treaty will be signed in new conditions and it should reflect these conditions. The EU has expanded, it now has a new face. It now has more democracy and it is more sensitive to these issues. On the other hand, we have a Russia undergoing the restoration process. Certainly, it is a positive process, but there are negative features as well, which we do not understand and do not welcome.”
“So, technical difficulties with signing the treaty are due to the situation with democracy in Russia?”
“These are fundamental difficulties, and not technical. For Russia, there are ‘good guys’ in the EU, with whom she deals, and ‘bad guys’, with whom she doesn’t deal. In Russia, there is a difference between the relations with old EU members and the new ones, even if it is not acknowledged officially. Russian elites want to maintain a certain imperial entourage, and an empire should have a large army and influence its neighbors. However, the EU is much more united now, and we cannot start negotiations with that kind of attitude. Besides, the European Parliament attaches great importance to the respect for human rights in Russia, and it is not the only difficulty.”
“When the treaty’s discussion is to begin?”
“I hope that Poland and Lithuania lift their veto, and the talks will start then. The process itself might take around a year.”
“What will be the differences between the old treaty and the new one?”
“Let me cite just one instance. About a decade ago, when the old treaty was discussed, no one spoke about energy security, while now it is the key issue for the EU.”
“And Gazprom says that the issue does not exist, and that Russia is a reliable supplier of energy resources to the EU.” “Perhaps, it is not a difficulty for Gazprom, but if you live in Poland and your gas supplies are suddenly reduced by 50 percent,--what sort of security is that? Meanwhile, that is precisely what had already happened. Shall we recall the permanent difficulties with gas supplies to Ukraine or to Georgia? Today it is Georgia, and tomorrow – anyone else. By the way, Gazprom cannot at all act as a partner in the issue, for it is not a commercial company, but a political force. So, we can be in dialogue with the Russian state only.”
“Last week, the European Parliament stormily discussed the Nabucco project. Does the EU regard it as a way to decrease its energy dependence on Russia?”
“I believe there are no outer sources of energy for Europe except Russia. Atomic energy can be the only alternative source. Meanwhile, the presence of alternative supply routes is profitable both for the EU and Russia. We should explain to Russian gas suppliers a simple thought: our money is no less important than your resources, and vice versa. The EU simply wants timely gas supplies without any political games. And Russia needs to create the reputation of a reliable supplier. Otherwise, there will be no long-term relations.”
“You have said there are no energy supply sources for the EU except Russia. Yet, EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner reached agreement with Turkmenistan last week that the country will reserve 10 billion cubic meters of gas for the EU in 2009.”
“How much does the EU import annually? It is 300 billion cubic meters, so Turkmenistan will provide just some 3 percent. I am sure there is no real alternative to Russia’s gas. There can be just some insignificant supplements. Certainly, we can resort to those resources in extreme cases, but we now speak about the long-term perspective. I believe the more alternative routes, the better. The Nabucco project poses no threat to Russia.”
“What would you say about the Nord Stream project then?”
“I think it is a very costly solution to the problem. Gazprom could have built the pipeline through Poland and Belarus, but Russia and Germany decided to do it differently. We can recall the ecologic issues caused by the project. There is something else: unless a project bypasses other countries for political reasons, it can be accepted. Yet, if Russia is simply unwilling to sell gas to Poland, and is looking for ways to sell it directly to Western Europe, then it is a threat to Poland’s energy security.”
“It is united, but not in the energy policy. Actually, this shouldn’t be happening. However, if gas is transported through Poland’s territory, we are 100-percent confident it will reach us as well.”
“There are ecologic claims to the Nord Stream project. What about Nabucco then?”
“There are same claims there, and in this respect one project is no better than the other.”
“Russia and the EU have differences not in their views on energy security only, but also in the general security issues. What do you think of the U.S. missile defense facilities’ deployment in Europe?”
“I am against any bilateral decisions. Certainly, the United States is an important country for the international security system. Consequently, they have the right to estimate threats. If they are afraid of Iran’s missiles, it is their legal right. Russia too has the legal right to ask questions, because new military facilities will appear close to its borders. Yet, Russia has no right to say ‘no’.”
“What would you say of NATO expansion?”
“It is quite strange actually that it is an issue at all. For instance, NATO carries out an operation in Afghanistan which is in Russia’s interests as well. Just imagine what would happen if the Taliban members come to North Caucasus. So, NATO’s part as the chief warrant of Europe’s security is unquestionable. If the alliance guarantees security to its members, why shouldn’t it expand? Russia’s protests would have been understandable if NATO had been aimed against her, but it is not so. Russia should change its public attitude to the alliance, because all tough statements of Moscow is just schizophrenia which brings no effect.”
“Will these issues be solved during Dmitry Medvedev’s presidency?”
“I am asking everyone here whether Dmitry Medvedev is going to bring any qualitative changes into Russia’s politics, but no one knows. The fact of a new president’s coming does not count by itself. We have objective difficulties. Let us look at him after May 7th. All doors in Brussels are open for him.”
Mr. Sivec notes that "For Russia, there are ‘good guys’ in the EU, with whom she deals, and ‘bad guys’, with whom she doesn’t deal. In Russia, there is a difference between the relations with old EU members and the new ones, even if it is not acknowledged officially."

This is easily explained. It is much more pleasant to do business with people who do not insult you continually. It is unpleasant to do business with people who slight and insult you continually.

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