By Charles Clover in Khabarovsk
Published: May 22 2009 14:34 | Last updated: May 22 2009 14:34
The European Union and Russia failed to make progress on any of the major issues separating the two at a summit which concluded in Russia’s far eastern city of Khabarovsk.
An agreement regulating energy pipelines, which Europe deems essential to its energy security, found no support with the Kremlin, as Russian President Dmitry Medvedev told a news conference on Friday he had “no intention” of adopting the European Energy Charter, which Russia signed but has not ratified.
The charter has taken on new importance since the January gas row between Russia and Ukraine that shut off gas to many European countries last winter. Russia used the summit as an opportunity to showcase its own version of the treaty, but EU Commission president José Manuel Barroso said Russia’s proposals could only add to the charter, not replace it.
Analysts said that Russia had little interest in signing up to the charter, as the Kremlin believes the treaty undermines its sovereignty and would threaten its monopolistic position as a gas supplier to Europe.
David Clark, chair of the London-based Russia Foundation, said Russia was trying to “sideline” the charter and called on the EU to insist Russia recognise it: “Although new and stronger rules governing energy relations would be welcome, it is by no means clear that the Russian government shares that objective… Russia accepted binding application of the ECT [Energy Charter treaty] when it signed the treaty, as did every current member state of the EU.
“The European Commission has already said that the new concept cannot replace the existing, binding ECT and the only sensible approach for the EU to take is to insist that Russia abides by its existing obligations before consideration can be given to an additional treaty” he said.
On the subject of gas supplies, Mr Medvedev, when pressed, said he could only offer assurances from the Russian side on the continuity of supplies. “There are no problems on our side — everything is in order here,” he said.
Five months after the gas crisis, experts and politicians still disagree over who ultimately bore responsibility for it, though Mr Barroso made it clear he held both Ukraine and Russia responsible for the mess.
Mr Medvedev added that he doubted Ukraine’s ability to pay for supplies of Russian gas, raising the possibility of a repeat of the crisis. The January dispute was triggered by alleged non-payments by Kiev.
The other thorny issue which divided Russian and EU leaders was the latters’ support of six former Soviet republics via the Eastern Partnership, which the Kremlin suspects may be designed to wean the countries away from Moscow’s orbit.
”We don’t want the Eastern Partnership to be turned into a partnership against Russia,” said Mr Medvedev.