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AP Worldstream: Europe seeks turns to Russia and others to secure its energy supply

Published: Nov 20, 2006

Seeking to secure and diversify its energy supply, the European Union will hold talks with Russia this week and meet with officials from other oil and gas exporting nations.

Europe’s energy demand is growing as its own supplies of North Sea oil and natural gas dwindle and world prices soar. Facing the prospect of importing 70 percent of its energy over the next 15 years, the EU wants to shore up relations with reliable energy exporters while looking for new partners and new routes.

It is eager to step up ties with Russia, which now supplies a quarter of Europe’s oil and over two-fifths of its gas. But it may be forced to lower its expectations as Moscow balks at including energy trade rules in a new strategic partnership to secure its lucrative oil and gas reserves for Russian companies.

Unless Moscow changes its tune, Poland has threatened to veto the start of negotiations with Russia on Nov. 24. Finland, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency, will try to win Polish support for the talks this week.

The EU will also throw open the doors to other energy players, holding a major conference in Brussels on Monday and Tuesday where European ministers will mingle with officials from Norway, Ukraine, Nigeria and Azerbaijan and executives from energy companies Gazprom OAO, E.On Ruhrgas AG, Royal Dutch Shell PLC and BP PLC.

This is the first time the EU has placed itself as the voice of Europe on energy issues, taking over from individual efforts from its 25 member states as they struggle to deal with a more complex international scene.

However, European leaders must still decide next March what powers they will give the European Commission to negotiate on their behalf. The Commission sees clear benefits from taking charge of energy policy.

“As a Union we are a major customer for suppliers and as consumers we have considerable purchasing power,” EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said. “We should ensure that we work together to get the best deal and the strongest energy security for all Europeans.”

That includes firming up trade relations with neighbors who supply or transport Europe’s energy. As part of that effort, EU energy chief Andris Piebalgs will meet Monday with Ukrainian officials and Egyptian energy and petrol ministers.

At the same time, the EU will launch talks on a trade and investment deal with Iraq that aim to stabilize the troubled oil-rich country.

But Europe will also look at problems closer to home as part of efforts to cut out inefficiencies across its separate national markets, reduce energy consumption and develop more renewable power.

EU energy ministers will Thursday discuss a wide range of actions to cut energy use up to 14 percent below current levels by 2020, calling on people to switch off or change energy-draining appliances.

Copyright 2006 Associated Press and its sister websites,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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