22nd May 2022

New EU-Russia treaty to deepen security and energy ties

  • Moscow: the EU and Russia need a new treaty for a new era (Photo: Wikipedia)

A new EU-Russia treaty in 2007 is set to be strong on joint crisis management, with EU reliance on Russian energy to grow.

"We might be actually acting side by side in far away places, like Sudan, under UN auspices," Russian ambassador to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, said in an interview with EUobserver on Thursday (9 March).

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"Whether one likes it or not, in the mid-term perspective, that is in the next 15 to 30 years, the percentage of EU demand covered by supplies from Russia will grow," he indicated.

Mr Chizhov dubbed the new legal pact a "Strategic Partnership Treaty (SPT)" envisaging a slim framework document backed up by action-oriented instruments.

"The issue at stake is not a new energy treaty...but a new treaty that would summarise Russia-EU relations and this can replace the existing Partnership and Cooperation Agreement [PCA]."

The PCA was drafted in the 1980s between the then European Community and Soviet Union; it came into force in 1997 and will expire in December 2007.

European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso will fly to Moscow on 17 March to kick-start the treaty talks with negotiations beginning "in earnest" in autumn.

"The commission doesn't have a mandate to negotiate a new agreement. We understand that the intention is to draft such a mandate and present it to [member states] before the summer break," Mr Chizhov said.

Ukraine gas crisis boosts pipeline plans

The Ukraine gas crisis in January reinforced Russia's plans to build a Baltic Sea gas pipeline to Germany as well as Austria's push to build the Nabucco gas pipeline to the Caspian basin, the ambassador indicated.

"The silver lining behind this Ukrainian hiccup is that today nobody questions the need for additional pipelines, including the North European gas pipeline."

Poland still hates the Baltic pipeline, he explained "but today they are the only ones. There are countries that initially hated the idea but now they hate the idea of being left out of it."

Western diplomats believe Nabucco will give the EU leverage in gas talks with Russia, yielding a new supply route out of Gazprom’s hands.

But "at least some" of the gas flowing through Nabucco will be Russian, Mr Chizhov predicted, adding "If one wants to play one country against another in terms of gas supplies that does not increase stability, that does not increase energy security."

"It [the EU] is free to choose cheap energy from Russia or more expensive energy from elsewhere," he said.

Joint missions in Nagorno-Karabakh

EU and Russian soldiers could also do peacekeeping work in the breakaway Azerbaijan region of Nagorno-Karabakh in line with the new crisis management agenda, Mr Chizhov indicated.

"It could only be a solution providing post-solution peacekeeping, not classic peacekeeping. Because neither the EU nor Russia want to get involved until there is an agreement on the ground."

Russia has already sent a few policemen to join the EU police mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina and offered helicopters to help put out French forest fires in 2005.

But it would be difficult for Russia to work with the EU on the Bosnian model, with Russia as a "junior partner," in post-Soviet countries, Mr Chizhov said.

EU-Russian crisis work has also been frustrated by Brussels red tape in the past.

The Bosnian police agreement took one year to write and the last two months were spent in "endless discussions" on whether it should be in English only or English and Russian.

"Our partners on the EU side of the table said, since Russian is not an official language of the EU, you can't have it. This is stupid."

Russian helicopters were ready to take off in 24 hours to help France but it took seven days to get overflight clearance from EU transit states.

"In the meantime all the forests burned down," the ambassador indicated. "Today the EU lacks a coordinated system of civilian emergency response."

EU brightness versus Russian darkness

Some aspects of EU diplomacy are unhelpful in managing relations between the two powers in the post-Soviet region, Mr Chizhov remarked.

"There are people unfortunately here [in Brussels] who want to pose artificial dilemmas facing these countries," he said. "The dilemma being - it's either forward to the bright future with the EU or backwards into the darkness with Russia."

"We are being pragmatic, we understand that whatever any of these countries wishes is not going to happen today or tomorrow or in the foreseeable future," the diplomat stated.

"But they are free to express their wishes, to dream about their future EU membership."

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