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Chasing Down Reciprocity in EU-Russia Energy Relations

Reciprocity is quite a loaded word in the energy debate, but essentially the concept calls for equitable, comparable, and fair terms of access into the energy markets of two partners – namely, if Gazprom can purchase distribution and sales assets in the European Union, than European companies should be allowed major stakes at oil and gas production sites in Russia. However it becomes much more complex than that, as Katinka Barysch of the Centre for European Reform has indicated in many of her analysis papers. She writes, “The trouble is that Europeans and Russians mean completely different things when they talk about reciprocity. The EU wants a mutually agreed legal framework to facilitate two-way investment. The Kremlin wants assets swaps. Europe wants openness, Russia wants control. For now, reciprocity is working in Russia’s favour.

However, representatives of the European Commission continue to stand by the so-called “Gazprom clause.” During a conference this week organized by EurActiv, EC deputy Marie-Christine Jalabert told reporters: “We have one goal: to prevent a possible non-EU company from putting the assets on the market. … If a company wants to buy shares in a transmission system operator on the stock market, they have to prove to the regulator that their government has the same kind of governance for requests from our own countries. … A lot of member states are not yet in favour; the position is not clear within the Council. Germany is not in favour, Austria neither, so it’s still open for debate in the Council.“The article goes on to note that Austrian MEPs from the EPP-ED group, the largest in Parliament, continue to prefer bi-lateral energy deals with Russia and discourage any special reciprocity clause.So long as a majority of the European Parliament back this position, unity on a common energy policy and symmetrical bargaining with Russia will remain a distant fantasy.