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EU Energy Chief says bloc needs „solidarity” to counter crises

The European Union must be more united to ensure stable energy supplies throughout the bloc in the face of unreliable suppliers, Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs said.

„The solidarity mechanism will establish energy security networks which share intelligence to forecast” possible shortfalls in supply, Piebalgs told journalists after speaking at a conference in Warsaw today. „50 years after its establishment, the EU does not have a common energy policy.” The EU became Russia's largest energy market in 2004, when eight former Soviet satellite states became members and two others joined in January.
Oil and gas make up more than 60% of Russian exports to Europe. Supplies of both oil and gas to the EU from Russia were temporarily disrupted this year after a pricing dispute between the Russian authorities and Belarus, through which Russia transports about a fifth of its gas exports. The shutoff forced countries like Germany and Poland to tap stockpiles and renewed an EU-wide debate about energy source diversification.

Polish Economy Minister Piotr Wozniak said further harmonization of EU energy policy was vital to ensure that individual members are not blackmailed by supplier countries with threats of supply cut-offs. „We were very glad to see the part of the EU's project that talks about energy solidarity in the case of supply disruption,” said Wozniak at the conference, adding that Poland had no infrastructure to cope with supply cuts. „We'll strongly support any moves on the part of the commission that help this initiative.”

Putin said earlier this month that his country was not taking advantage of its rich energy resources to push its foreign policy goals. Critics disagree. „Russia has discovered it has a weapon that it can use to pursue its imperialist aims,” said former Polish Foreign Minister and European Parliament deputy Bronislaw Geremek in an interview with broadcaster TVN24 today. Wozniak said the Polish government was seriously considering constructing a nuclear power station in order to reduce its dependence on Russian energy imports. Poland is already co-building a reactor with the three Baltic states to replace the region's only plan at Ignalina, in Lithuania. (Bloomberg)