The German government plans to press Russia to accept independent mediation in any future energy disputes with its neighbors, a move aimed at avoiding further disruptions of oil and gas supplies to western Europe.
Germany, as current holder of the European Union's six-month rotating presidency, wants President Vladimir Putin to accept automatic arbitration in the event of energy disputes escalating, according to German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. The step may be adopted as part of a „Partnership and Cooperation” accord between the EU and Russia due for renewal this year, he said. „We want to weave a new chapter in the accord addressing long-term energy supplies,” Steinmeier said in an interview in Berlin yesterday.
„If we can achieve it, we may also seek a mediation mechanism for disputes.” The measure is meant to help find a quick resolution to disputes such as those with Ukraine in January 2006 and with Belarus this year, which led Russia to halt westward-bound gas and oil supplies that transit the countries. Chancellor Angela Merkel, who last year praised Russia as a „reliable partner” in energy and other matters, said on January 10 that it was „not acceptable” that Russia hadn't consulted the EU about the shutoff.
Merkel will hold talks on energy supplies during a meeting with Putin at the President's Black Sea retreat on January 21, Steinmeier said. Putin last year rejected a proposed energy chapter in the revamped accord. Putin has so far parried EU pressure to sign his country up to new international energy arrangements, citing the adequacy of bilateral contracts. Changing his mind may prove difficult as the president shows new vigor in expanding rather than limiting the role of oil and gas in foreign policy, analysts have said. (Bloomberg)