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RIA Novosti
February 3, 2009
European Parliament to discuss pipelines, gas and 'Russian question'

MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Andrei Fedyashin) - The European Parliament is beginning debates on the European Union's energy security.

Its powers are considerably more limited than the powers of the EU countries' national legislatures. However, in view of the upcoming elections to the European Parliament on June 4-7, the EU leadership should at least listen to what it has to say.

The 785-member European Parliament approves the format of the European Commission and may take a no-confidence vote on it if two-thirds of its members vote for this.

In principle, the "Strasbourg radicals" - the Baltic-Scandinavian bloc, often supported by Britain - want to pressure Russia and fight its "gas imperialism."

They are to formulate their mandate for President Jose Manuel Barroso, who will go to Moscow on February 6 for a meeting with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. The two leaders will discuss the global financial crisis, preparations for the G20 summit in London in April, Moscow-Brussels relations, and consequences of the Russia-Ukraine gas conflict.

Moscow will propose that the European Parliament and the G20 draft clear rules of the game in the energy market, with equal conditions for consumers and suppliers.

The EU has further complicated the MPs' thoughts when it made public its program of energy and infrastructure expenditures for 2009, set at 5 billion euros, shortly before the winter session.

The bulk of allocations for the construction of gas pipelines and liquefaction plants, modernization of transit pipelines, construction of alternative energy power plants, and expansion of the grid system will be provided to the countries that have suffered the least from the Russian-Ukrainian gas conflict.

For example, Bulgaria and Slovakia, which nearly stalled for the shortage of gas in January, will get miserly sums: Bulgaria only 20 million euros for the construction of a gas pipeline to Greece, and Slovakia 25 million euros for laying a pipeline to Hungary.

The energy package stipulates the allocation of only 250 million euros for the Nabucco pipeline, intended to link energy-rich Central Asia to Europe through Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Austria, bypassing Russia and Ukraine.

Even the European Commission has admitted that the "politically contradictory project" cannot be implemented with this kind of money.

This means that the future of the pipeline, which has been backed mostly by the U.S., is gloomy.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said in Davos that he would not wait for Europe's decision on Nabucco any longer.

During a discussion at the World Economic Forum, he said that Baku was tired of Europe's wobbling, and that he liked more and more the proposal Russia's Gazprom made last July - to buy all of Azerbaijani export gas on the border.