Monday

17th Jun 2019

EU-Russia summit ends with prickly exchange over energy

Originally billed as an uneventful meeting on technical issues such as trade tariffs, the EU-Russia summit in the Far East on Friday (22 May) ended in open disagreement over foreign policy and energy security.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warned that the EU's new Eastern Partnership project to improve relations with six former-Soviet states risks enflaming political tensions.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • (From left to right) Mr Barroso, Mr Medvedev, Mr Klaus and EU top diplomat Javier Solana in Khabarovsk on Thursday (Photo: kremlin.ru)

"I'll put it succinctly. We tried to convince ourselves [that the EU project is harmless] but in the end we couldn't," he said, newswires report. "What worries us is that in some countries attempts are being made to exploit this structure as a partnership against Russia."

The Russian president said he had no intention of ratifying the Energy Charter Treaty, an EU-backed multilateral agreement on energy investment and transit rules which Moscow signed in 1994.

He indicated that Ukraine's inability to pay for Russian gas could end up in a repetition of the transit problems that saw millions of EU consumers cut off in January. But he refused to give reassurances that Russia is taking steps to prevent another outage.

"What for? There are no problems on our side. Everything is in order here," said Mr Medvedev, considered to be the more open and liberal face of the Kremlin.

For his part, European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso ruled out abandoning the energy charter.

"We are open to discussing new proposals, but we should rely on existing agreements. We should not question the present energy security system in Europe," he said.

The summit had begun cordially on Thursday evening, with leaders in open-necked shirts attending a fireworks display and taking a boat ride on the Amur river.

Some commentators said that the venue, Khabarovsk, located 8,000 km away from Brussels and 30 km from the Chinese border, was intended to underline the vast stretch of Russia's domain. The Financial Times reported that Czech President Vaclav Klaus, the official head of the EU delegation, had asked to go to Khabarovsk because he had never been there before.

The trade side of the meeting also saw friction.

EU trade commissioner Catherine Ashton told Reuters that Brussels will not sign a new strategic pact with Russia unless it enters the World Trade Organisation (WTO) first, a condition that would require Russia to lift tariffs on Siberian overflights, timber exports and imports of cars, steel and milk.

"Russia needs to demonstrate it really is keen to move to WTO accession, and part of that is not imposing any new duties," she said.

The public criticisms are just the tip of the iceberg of EU concerns about Russia. EU officials also want Moscow to abide by peace accords signed in Georgia, take steps to secure the safety of ageing nuclear reactors and submarines, make good on promises to fight judicial corruption and tackle human rights abuses in its North Caucasus provinces.

Klaus gaffe

The Russophile President Vaclav Klaus stayed on message at the summit, repeating the EU lines that Russia is a "strategic partner" and that the Eastern Partnership "is not aimed against anybody."

But comments he made in Czech daily Lidove Noviny before the Khabarovsk meeting have caused anger inside the EU.

"I don't see Russia as a threat but as a big, strong and ambitious country to which we must certainly pay more attention than to the likes of Estonia and Lithuania," the paper quoted him as saying.

The Estonian foreign ministry on Friday summoned the Czech ambassador in Tallinn to explain the remarks, AFP reports.

"I believe I know President Klaus' words do not reflect the positions of the Czech people or the Czech government but I am surprised that such a regrettable phrase, which divides European countries into important and unimportant ones, were expressed by a Czech," Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves said.

Trump advocates no-deal Brexit on eve of UK visit

Johnson and Farage in charge, a no-deal Brexit, chlorinated chicken in British shops, and privatised healthcare - that is what the UK should head towards, Trump and his ambassador have said.

Millions needed by mid-June to feed war-stricken Gazans

The UN is looking for another $60m by mid-June to stave off hunger in the Gaza Strip in the hopes of averting another flashpoint. The demand follows a two-day war earlier this month that killed 25 Palestinians and four Israelis.

Analysis

EU should stop an insane US-Iran war

"If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!", US president Donald Trump tweeted on Monday (20 May).

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  3. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  5. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  6. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  7. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  8. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody

Latest News

  1. Erdogan mocks Macron amid EU sanctions threat
  2. The most dangerous pesticide you've never heard of
  3. 'Russian sources' targeted EU elections with disinformation
  4. Top EU jobs summit dominates This WEEK
  5. EP parties planning 'coalition agenda' ahead of jobs summit
  6. MEP blasts Portugal over football whistleblower
  7. Catalonia MEPs are a judicial, not political, issue
  8. Meet the lawyer taking the EU migration policy to the ICC

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  2. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  5. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  10. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  11. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  12. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us