21st Jan 2021

EU cannot trust Russia or Ukraine, Barroso says

  • "This very peculiar episode is over. Let's hope it's over," Mr Barroso said. (Photo: European Commission)

The leaders of Russia and Ukraine are less trustworthy than some African countries, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said on Tuesday (20 January), as Russian gas finally began to arrive in EU states after a 13-day freeze.

"I was very disappointed in these past few days by the way the leadership in those countries negotiates," the commission chief said, after making more than 30 personal telephone calls to Moscow and Kiev during the gas dispute.

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"I've been involved in mediation processes since I was young, including in African matters. It's the first time I saw agreements that were systematically not respected," he added.

"Gas coming from Russia is not secure. Gas coming through Ukraine is not secure. This is an objective fact."

The withering remarks come after Russia's Gazprom on Tuesday morning began pumping the normal amount of gas - 424 million cubic metres a day - to Ukraine and initial deliveries arrived in Hungary and Slovakia hours later.

The resolution of the gas crisis will see Kiev pay double for gas in 2009 compared to 2008, with Brussels hoping the deal does not fall apart amid mounting political and economic turbulence in Ukraine.

"This very peculiar episode is over. Let's hope it's over," Mr Barroso said.

Apart from pushing for new pipelines and EU energy solidarity investments, the commission indicated the gas dispute could provoke legal action against Russia and Ukraine under the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT), a 1994 multilateral pact.

"There is an Energy Charter Treaty that was signed but not ratified by Russia [and] a charter treaty signed and ratified by Ukraine. So here we have ...some public responsibilities in terms of international law," Mr Barroso explained.

"We were preparing [legal] action for today, in case the gas was not coming back."

Russia not bound by treaty

The Russian ambassador to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, rejected Mr Barroso's analysis and questioned the value of the ECT, however.

"We follow the principles of the treaty, but we are not bound by the obligations," he told EUobserver. "After hearing for months and years of the need for Russia to ratify the treaty, we have seen that Ukraine, which has signed and ratified it, did not adhere to it in the crisis."

The diplomat said the gas dispute is unlikely to influence EU-Russia talks on a new strategic partnership treaty, with business as usual going on despite Mr Barroso's harsh words.

"We will have our next working group on economic aspects in about 10 days' time and we'll see. We had one working group on different issues [justice and home affairs] this morning and it went well."

"The EU has no reason to distrust Russia," Mr Chizhov explained. "As far as the EU-Russia relationship goes, I think the pattern of dialogue on energy issues has survived and has withstood the challenge."

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