EU, Moscow to Discuss Energy Reform

A group of experts will discuss the proposed reform of the EU energy market, including possible restrictions on foreign firms

Brussels and Moscow have agreed to set up a group of experts tailored to discuss the proposed reform of the EU energy market, including a highly-controversial set of restrictive measures on foreign energy bidders known as the 'Gazprom clause'.

"We are interested in active consultations with our European colleagues on new energy initiatives", Russian energy minister Viktor Khristenko said after talks with EU energy commissioner Andris Piebalgs in Brussels on Tuesday (16 October).

"We agree on one objective; that we want to ensure security of supply and predictability, which will allow for sustainable development", Mr Khristenko added.

Commissioner Piebalgs has welcomed Moscow's "pragmatic approach" and its promise to adopt a political position only after the consultation takes place and all controversial issues are clarified.

Brussels tabled its far-reaching reform of the union's energy sector in September, prompting some negative reactions in several EU capitals as well as in Russia.

Under the proposed set of rules for the market in electricity and natural gas, production and transmission channels need to be separated in energy companies; foreign bidders should be prevented from expanding into the 27-nation energy market without limit; and third countries should provide the EU with the same access to their markets.

Asked about the principle of reciprocity, Mr Khristenko questioned the proposal in diplomatic fashion.

"We have the opportunity to participate in the development of various sectors of energy in Europe by means of joint projects with partners in Germany, Italy and France -- wherever we've got this mutual level of understanding among partners", Russia's minister said.

"We hope new initiatives, which are being drawn up by the European Commission, will not in any way represent an obstacle to these aims", he added.

According to Mr Khristenko's estimates, European energy companies invest roughly 55 million dollars in Russia, while Russian firms invest seven to eight billion dollars in the 27-nation bloc.

However, commissioner Piebalgs has underlined not only Russia's role in the EU energy market, but also the need to look for new suppliers.

"With all due respect to Russian supplies -- it represents 25 percent of our consumption -- so that means we nevertheless need other suppliers", Mr Piebalgs said, referring to energy security as well as to the need for liquidity in the EU market.

However, he added "it does not in any way hamper the EU's relations with Russia as the biggest and most reliable supplier".

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