“Trust in Russia and Ukraine is distorted” – EU Commissioner
KURAKINA: So cut straight to the chase… energy is one of the key issues, perhaps, at this summit. Last month Dmitry Medvedev in Helsinki proposed his idea of new international energy regulations to balance the interests of consumers, the producers, and the transit countries. Yet, it seems to me, EU is not in a hurry to embrace this proposal and has yet to make the return proposal. So… why is that so?
WALDNER: Well, we have an energy charter treaty. You know, we are working according to that, and Russia has not excepted it, so now we have studied the proposals of President Medvedev, there are interesting ideas in there. A lot of ideas are already incorporated in the energy charter treaty, and for the rest we will have to see. So, for the future we will have to discuss very very carefully how to go by it, what can we do. I think we might have to build on the existing energy charter treaty and what is there already, because the member states will not want to re-negotiate everything. But may be here and there we can then speak about one article or the another article. May be a sort of review of one or the other article. May be this is the solution, but we are not yet there.
KURAKINA: And you know for Russia, of course, getting its gas to the EU is one of the top priorities. Its building the North Stream, the South Stream to try to find reliable routes of getting its gas to the EU. There's this Dmitry Medvedev's initiative. So clearly, Russia is trying to contribute to the European energy security. What is the EU doing in that direction?
WALDNER: Oh, for instance for us it is very very important too that we have reliable partners. And, indeed, the gas conflict between Russia and Ukraine of course distorted a lot. Also the trust… both in Russia and Ukraine. Therefore, I think we have gone through a difficult moment, but I think now we have to build again on that. And for instance, the early warning mechanism that we have constructed together with the Russians. I think its very important, this is now a mechanism of consultation, but also of trying to put the right things together when there seems to be a difficulty. Because indeed there should not be. There should be a reliable delivery for the producer as much as for the transit country and for the consumer.
KURAKINA: And you know, a lot of experts see the Nabucco project backed by the EU as the one being in competition with the Russian South Stream. How much competition between the two do you think is really there?
WALDNER: Well, I think what we have seen and what we want is… in any case there will always be a higher demand in energy, so, therefore, even complimentary will be necessary to have more pipelines, more possibilities… and even more resources. So Nabucco and others, because there're also a lot of other ideas, not only Nabucco, they are certainly complimentary. But Russia will remain, also in the future, our biggest supplier. That is clear. And there is a clear interdependence between Russia and the EU. I think if we can again build trust between each other, and the trust is the fundament in order to work together. I think this is the most important. And I hope that today's interesting discussion will certainly contribute to that.
KURAKINA: Let me ask you about the new partnership and cooperation agreement. Clearly a lot of people in the EU and Russia agree that the current one is outdated and a new one is needed, but the progress on it has been slow: first Poland was blocking the start of the talks, then of course there was the August conflict in the Caucasus that was a major setback – it seems that instead of uniting Europe in the face of Russia on the issue this partnership agreement has seen some divisions within the European Union.
WALDNER: No, it was difficult to start, that’s true, and you have mentioned the reason. But in the meantime, we have, after a certain reflection period, resumed our negotiations, and I always was in favour of this resumption, and we had very constructive rounds of the negotiations, but these negotiations are very complex – it’s a huge agreement, it’s a very profound agreement. So it will take some time. But I must say I’m quite happy about the progress that has been made, so a little bit of patience is necessary and you have to think that there’re 27 member-countries for whom we negotiate with one country – a big one – but still there’s one country together with 27 of course combined and negotiated with by the European commission, by me and by us.
KURAKINA: About the situation in the Caucasus .. the EU of course doesn’t support Russia’s recognition of independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, but it looks like the people of these republics have made it perfectly clear they do not want to be a part of Georgia. What do you think is the just solution, regarding the circumstances.
WALDNER: Well, it is absolutely clear, that we do not accept the independence, so to say, and recognition of independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. We are in favor of territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia. Now, for the moment, I think we have to try to see that people, wherever they are, be they in Georgia, or be they in South Ossetia or Abkhazia, have the best possible access be it to humanitarian aid, be it to any other benefits. And we are very much in favor of Geneva talks, where small practical steps are being accepted. Now, there was a sort of conflict incident prevention mechanism that has been accepted by both sides, now it has to be implemented, because the EU MM mission is there and it should prevent further incidents that indeed have taken place. Then, we would like to see the humanitarian aid also being delivered to many (IDPs) internally displaced persons in South Ossetia. We would like to see UN, of course, go on in Abkhazia and we would also like to see OSCE go on in South Ossetia. So, indeed, this is one of the major differences we have with Russia.
KURAKINA: Well, if you say that the EU is in favor of Georgia's territorial integrity, I cant help asking about Kosovo. What are the differences then regarding the situation in Kosovo? How is it different from South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
WALDNER: Well, one of the big differences was that indeed for years there had been a Security Council resolution 1244 that has clearly said at a certain moment Kosovo should have a new status. And you know we've been working on that in UN for a very long time. I'm not going into all the details here, but I think this was the major difference to the question of Georgia. But I think for the moment we have to go on as much as we can in diplomatic negotiation to try to ease the situation.
KURAKINA: My last question: a lot of analysts were saying ahead of this summit that, perhaps, compared to Khanty-Mansiysk summit last year, which saw a major breakthrough on the talks on the partnership agreement, this summit is sort of a summit of lower expectations, no documents are going to be signed. What are your expectations of the summit? Do you agree that its just a talking show?
WALDNER: No, no, no. Not at all. First of all, last summit in Khanty-Mansiysk was the opening, the launching of the negotiations. May be that's very important for journalists, for us it was important, but we know at the opening that it will be a long process and now we are in mixed of this process. No, I think its a very important summit, because we have 2 or 3 major topics that are absolutely important for all of us, but also for the world: 1) the financial and economic crisis; 2) of course, climate change, because you know the Kopenhagen conference comes up, and we all the big players have to contribute to making Kopenhagen and a post Kyoto reduction of emissions a success. And there now we have the European Union, we have the Obama Administration, the new American administration, that is much more open. Therefore, we want to… together with Russia, with China, with US and with many many other countries make this a success. It will be a lengthy discussion… very important. And then energy. Enegry will be very high on our agenda. It is on your agenda, but it is also on our agenda. And I think we have to think openly. We are interdependent – yes, we will have more demand in the future, so, therefore, there can also be complimentary delivery. But we have to have possibilities to trust in each other. And that I think is the major underline question. And then there will be all the international issues: Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan… and I dont know what else will be mentioned.