Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

EU parliament urges Moscow to 'stop playing games' in gas dispute

TheParliament.com - 14 January 2009

A debate in parliament on the Russia/Ukraine gas crisis heard that Moscow must ‘stop playing politics when people's lives are at stake’.

Russia was also urged to ‘honour’ its international agreements and ensure that supplies to Europe are fully restored.

The demand, from the ALDE group, came during a debate in Strasbourg on Wednesday on the ongoing gas crisis.

ALDE leader Graham Watson said, "The crisis has highlighted, not for the first time, the risks of depending too much on one source of energy and of relying on politically volatile countries to supply our essential energy needs.

"It is unacceptable that millions of European citizens find themselves with no heat in the dead of winter simply because of commercial incompetence and political rivalry in supplier countries."

The UK deputy added, "Both Russia and Ukraine share joint responsibility for the current crisis. The EU must now get tough and bring its collective weight to bear for the urgent resolution of the crisis."

His Polish party colleague Janusz Onyszkiewicz, parliament’s rapporteur on EU-Russian relations, said, "We deplore the approach of the Russian side which, contrary to the memorandum on the cooperation in the gas sphere, suddenly raised the price of gas for Ukraine to unrealistically high levels and was reluctant to discuss the issue of transit and storage fees.

“We welcome the agreement to admit EU monitors but deplore that the reliability of gas supplies from Russia has been once again undermined. It is of utmost importance to give a determined push towards projects like the Nabucco pipeline which will secure gas delivery from the Caspian Sea."

British Tory deputy Charles Tannock, his party’s foreign affairs spokesman in parliament, said, "The EU has been dragged into this row as a collateral victim of the Kremlin's gas diplomacy.

"The EU must not allow this crisis to drive a wedge between Ukraine and its future with the West and in particular its future as a member of the EU.

"The commission is right to be stepping up the rhetoric with Russia, and strong diplomacy is now needed. This has now dragged on far too long and the EU must say enough is enough.

"At times of energy shortages in the EU, we need a policy that will ensure we take a common approach to tackling this challenge, without the EU taking control of Britain's energy resources.

"European nations need to better pool their efforts, without pooling their energy supplies.”

Further comment came from Luxembourg Greens MEP Claude Turmes, who said, "It is completely unacceptable that Russia and Ukraine are stalling on their commitments to resume a normal supply of gas to the EU.

"Member states and the commission must make clear that the EU will take legal and political measures if gas delivery does not begin immediately."

He added, "The magnitude of the current crisis has exposed that the EU is poorly prepared for this kind of situation. Too much time has been wasted on words, concrete action is urgently needed.

"The EU needs emergency action plans that will determine how to reduce gas use and organise gas flows between EU countries so they can support each other at such crucial times."

Turmes said his party was now calling on the commission to present a 'recast' of the security of gas supply directive that will grant it legal powers capable of guaranteeing genuine gas solidarity in Europe.

"The EU should urgently move forward on a gas infrastructure plan for the Central and Eastern EU to swiftly resolve problems at both pipeline and gas storage level," he said.

Socialist deputy leader Jan Wiersma also commented, calling for an inquiry into the crisis.

He said, "We hope that the gas will be flowing again as soon as possible. But the resumption of supply does not draw a line under the issue.

"Ukraine and Russia need to understand that there will be serious consequences for their relations with the EU and future negotiations about new treaties.

"Conflicting information from the two sides has been deeply frustrating. We also need to examine what the EU itself did or did not do. The EU reaction to the impending crisis was certainly too slow, given that we had indications of trouble ahead in October and November. In addition, we need to know if the solidarity mechanism, under which EU member countries should supply gas to other member states with shortages, is capable of working.

"Disruption of supply has happened before, in 2006. At that time, there was talk about finding alternative supplies – but nothing seems to have happened. The inquiry must look into all of this, too.

"This gas crisis has been appalling and has inflicted real hardship on large numbers of people. The Socialist group is determined that such a thing should never happen again