Putin's energy talks with EU unfruitful

10:05, February 25, 2011      

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Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin talks to media after a bilateral meeting with EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso in the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, Feb. 24, 2011. (Xinhua/Thierry Monasse)

The executive-to-executive talks between Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and the European Commission (EC) chief on Thursday were apparently unpleasant as the former insisted the new EU energy rule equals to a property theft.

The EU rules, known as the third energy package which stops oil and gas suppliers from managing pipelines, amount to "property confiscation" and would hurt Russian businesses, Putin said at a press conference.

Aimed at "unbundling" over-concentrated ownership, the package offered three options to EU member states in dealing with gas exporters that own a pipeline on its territory, ranging from compulsory selling of pipelines to giving up part of the network services to other companies. In so doing, the EU believed it will boost competition and prevent any single company from controlling the entire supply chain in a country, thus bringing down prices.

But Putin argued that it would drive up the costs of energy for EU consumers, as pipeline management would have to be done by separate companies that are smaller in size.

The EC chief, Jose Manuel Barroso, tried to play down the discord by saying that solid progress has been made from talks between Russian cabinet members and the EU executives.

Barroso tried to justify the new law, calling it "nondiscriminatory" as it is also applied to other European countries. He cited Norway as an example.

The 27-nation bloc relies heavily on import in terms of energy. Russia, the largest gas supplier to the EU, is responsible for roughly a quarter of its gas import, while the rest comes from Norway, Algeria, Nigeria, Qatar, and the recently volatile Libya.

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