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THE VOICE OF RUSSIA: RUSSIA CALLS FOR EQUAL PARTNERSHIP WITH EU

Viktor Yenikeev.
10/23/2006

An unofficial summit between Russia and the EU has taken place in Lahti, Finland. High on the agenda were strategic partnership and energy cooperation.

Russia and the European Union have reaffirmed mutual intention to develop both strategic partnership and energy cooperation. European Commission President Jose Barroza told a closing news conference that Russia and Europe both need one another, and Russia, as the German Chancellor Angela Merkel remarked, is both a leading EU partner and a top player on the international scene.

The two sides acknowledged the existence of differences on further energy cooperation and had an open exchange of opinion on the issue, which is of primary important to both, as Russia accounts for more than one fourth of the European Union’s oil and gas supplies.

President Putin provided a calm and convincing reply to reproaches from the colleagues over Russia’s unwillingness at the current stage to sign the EU Energy Charter. Moscow, he said, is not signing up yet because it wants its national interests ensured. The EU, while wanting access to Russian energy resources and pipelines, is yet unprepared to grant Russia equal access to European resources. For now the Russian Gasprom has rejected proposals from European and American companies on the joint development of the Shtockman gas field. The proposals have proved economically unprofitable, and Gasprom has every right to say no.

Thanks to Mr.Putin’s explanations many EU leaders and ordinary citizens came to understand why there have been problems with Sakhalin-2 project. Under the production sharing agreement, Russia will get none of the profit until foreign companies have returned the money invested. Foreign companies have been producing gas for years and are now planning to double their investment. This means, President Putin said, that Russia will be getting no profit in the next ten years or so. And the environmental claims to the Sakhalin-2 foreign designers are legal and well-justified. Mr.Putin reminded those present that the UN Congress has banned the activities of British Petroleum on Alaska for similar violations.

Russia suggests settling the dispute by negotiation. Russia and the EU have thus been in open and intensive dialogue searching for a compromise solution, which, Moscow believes, is possible on an equal and mutually beneficial basis.

In the poetic expression of President Jacques Chirac of France, the two sides should be searching for harmony.

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