Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Gas supplies by Russia to Ukraine and the EU

Delivered in Plenary - 14th January 2009

Mr President

Russia’s use of interrupting gas flow as a diplomatic weapon has once again proved why we need a common EU external energy security policy by intergovernmental cooperation. Such a policy has the obvious benefit of minimising our exposure to Russian strong-arm tactics by encouraging alternative sources such as LNG, and new gas pipelines such as Nabucco and the trans-Saharan route, and building an integrated EU electricity grid.

However, it will also provide an impetus to the green agenda by encouraging renewable energy and energy efficiency and a renaissance of nuclear energy. I support Slovakia’s emergency demand to the Commission to reopen their closed Bohunice reactor, which will also help to address climate change.

There is no doubt in my mind that Russia is bullying Ukraine and trying to destabilise the government by even implicating the United States now in this whole debacle, ahead of the presidential election in Ukraine next year, and also jeopardising Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations.

However, the EU has been dragged into this row as a collateral victim of the Kremlin’s gas diplomacy. I cannot help feeling that Russia’s action was timed to coincide with the start of the Czech presidency, although Prime Minister and Council President-in-Office Topolánek has shown great skill in handling this emergency. Ukraine is possibly guilty as charged of siphoning off some Russian gas, but it is perhaps understandable in the context of the bilateral arrangements still unresolved between these two countries. Ukraine is currently obliged to pay an intermediary company an extra USD 500 million a year. Given that Ukraine’s gas debt to Russia is USD 2.4 billion, the debt could have been wiped off in about five years by scrapping this payment, which, allegedly, according to the deputy prime minister of Ukraine, ends up in the pockets of corrupt politicians. We need to resist any attempt to drive a wedge between Ukraine and its future with the West, and in particular its future as a full member of the European Union. The best way to ensure that Russia can no longer bully or put pressure on Ukraine, or even provoke the EU into bullying Ukraine to settle, is to champion a common EU external energy security policy which will show solidarity between the Member States at times of crisis and energy shortage.
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