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6 Feb, 2009 15:27

A meeting of minds on energy

Brussels and Moscow agree that measures are needed to prevent another gas crisis between Ukraine and Russia, says the Head of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso.

During his meeting with President Dmitry Medvedev, Barroso stressed that the European Commission believed the problem of energy security is extremely important both for Russia and the EU. He said the issue couldn’t be resolved without increasing positive interdependence in the energy sphere.

“The latest gas crisis showed that the situation with energy security is very vulnerable,” Dmitry Medvedev said.

He said: “no matter how much we talk about the fact that such problems should be solved bilaterally, or should be solved by those countries that are at odds with each other, unfortunately third countries suffer from this. And if that's the case we need to think about creating a full international protective system to guard against such incidents, because the system we have now doesn’t work.”

The global recession was also discussed.

“We shall not be able to overcome the consequences of the crisis without global coordination,” Barroso said.

According to Barosso, the preparations for April’s G20 summit in London are in full swing and EU countries are actively working on overcoming the consequences of the financial crisis both on a national and a EU level.

The problem of climate changing was also mentioned during the talk. Barroso said the European Commission is going to consider Russia's intention to make its contribution to tackling the global warming.

After that the head of the European Commission had negotiations with Russia’s Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin.

Putin has asked international observers to continue monitoring gas transit via Ukraine.

“We would ask them to continue monitoring until at least the end of the first quarter of this year,” Vladimir Putin told journalists after the talks.

The move is needed because Ukraine has yet not allowed Russian monitors into its central monitoring point in Kiev or its gas storage facilities, Putin said.

The PM said the European Union has confirmed its interest in implementing the South Stream and Nord Stream gas pipeline projects.

Talking of the future of Russia-EU cooperation, Vladimir Putin stressed that Russia is ready for compromises with the European Union, but these compromises should be reached on the basis of equality.

“We are prepared to look for compromises, meeting our partners halfway, and understanding and respecting their interests, but we demand the same attitude toward Russia,” he said.

Human rights debate

Barroso’s media conference was unexpectedly livened up by an impromptu human rights dispute with Putin. The European Commission president mentioned his discussion of the issue with Dmitry Medvedev, and apparently Putin took it with a frown.

He said while he was not entitled to speak on behalf of the Russian president himself, he wanted to comment, since Medvedev was not present at the event to do so himself.

Then Putin stressed that Europe has human rights issues of its own, including the treatment of Russian-speaking minorities in the Baltic countries, immigrant rights abuses or ‘the situation in prison systems of certain European states’.

While Russia does have problems of its own, Putin said, any discussion of human rights should be done in a holistic way – considering issues both in Russia and Europe.

The European envoy was quick to play down the argument, saying he simply didn’t have a chance to make his discussion with Medvedev public before the conference. He added it was constructive and said the relations between Russia and the EU were mature and allowed discussion of all issues, including the most sensitive ones, and that Europe welcomed criticism.

Barroso added he believed human rights and rule of law were more important then diplomacy between states as they deal with people directly and thus are an essential part of ‘our common European civilisation’.