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The Times: Shell chief calls for powerful EU energy supremo

July 2, 2007
Carl Mortished and Steve Hawkes

Europe needs an energy minister to co-ordinate a common policy on the supply of gas from Russia, according to Jeroen Van der Veer, the chief executive of Royal Dutch Shell.

The Shell chief has called for better co-ordination between foreign policy and energy security and has argued that Europe was being weakened by member states negotiating rival pipeline deals with foreign energy suppliers.

“I don’t think it makes sense that every country makes its own policy towards the supply of Russian gas. Only Brussels can do that,” he said.

In an interview with The Times, Mr van der Veer suggested that Europe needed an energy minister, a post that might be combined with the environment, to deal with negotiations over the development and routing of new pipelines.

“I don’t think it is a strong Europe if individual countries make their own policies [towards energy security],” he said. His remarks echoed similar calls last year by Dominique de Villepin, then the French prime minister, for the EU to create an energy chief who could negotiate with Russia, Norway, Algeria and other national energy suppliers to the EU.

Tension is mounting over Gazprom’s strategy in building export pipelines to the EU. The Russian utility recently rejected suggestions by Neelie Kroes, the European Competition Commissioner, that Gazprom would be required to sell its interest in the Nordstream pipeline, a gas pipe being laid beneath the Baltic linking Russia to Germany.

Critics suggest that the Russian company has been able to divide and rule in negotiating supply agreements with national gas utilities. Gazprom recently agreed with ENI, the Italian oil giant, to build South Stream, a pipeline that would run beneath the Black Sea and across the Balkans to Austria and Italy. If built, South Stream would seal the fate of Nabucco, an EU-sponsored project to bring gas from Central Asia and the Middle East into Europe, bypassing Russia.

The comments raise the heat before the visit to London by Alexander Medvedev, the Gazprom deputy chief executive, next weekend, which is certain to ignite fresh speculation over Gazprom’s intentions for the British market.

The Kremlin-controlled giant has little presence in the UK. It supplies 2,000 businesses through Gazprom Marketing & Trading, the former retail unit of Pennine Natural Gas, which it bought last year — its first UK acquisition. It appears to be poised to sign a deal to buy the Cheshire-based Natural Gas Shipping Services, a sister company to Pennine Natural Gas.

http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/natural_resources/article2013079.ece

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