Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Energy Diplomacy

Jimmy Carter has been in the parliament this week, but sadly I missed him. I'm told he looks remarkably well.

One person I did not miss was Dr Stanislav Zhinin, a Moscow based expert on energy policy, and on energy diplomacy. He discussed the tree different approaches to energy diplomacy - US policy is driven by the energy companies themselves, the EU approach he described with a wry grin as "conceptual", whilst Russia, he admitted, might be perceived as having a politically led approach.

I was present in 2009 when Gazprom adopted an 'empty chair' approach to negotiations with the EU over the Ukrainian shut-offs. Whilst MEPs, the press corps, and half the Ukrainian government crammed themselves into a meeting room and ranted, Alexy Miller simply didn't show up. The whole thing was brilliantly choreographed by the Russians, and the humiliation of Ukraine was a significant factor in the replacement of the Yukoshenko government with the Kremlin's puppet Yanukovych.

Without a common energy policy, the EU will always lose out to the Russians. But this needs to be not an EU common policy, but one based on international treaty, and which includes states such as Ukraine, Georgia, and Turkey. This would have the effect of pulling up standards of business practice in certain countries, whilst greatly reducing the vulnerability of peripheral states. It would also do to Russia what they seek to do to all their customers - it would marginalise them.

But don't hold your breath on this one....

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