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Gazprom Shocked to Be Treated Like Microsoft?

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In a great new policy paper from Katinka Barysch at the Centre for European Reform, it is argued that 1) “The EU can no longer claim to be building a strategic partnership with Russia that is based on common values,” 2) “The EU’s first task must be to reconcile internal differences among the various member-states,” and 3) that Europe “should concentrate on forging common positions on the most pressing questions, such as energy, missiles and Kosovo” in order to prepare for the post-Putin period. In a particularly insightful portion of the paper, Barysch points out that Gazprom’s dominating presence in Europe is really not a problem whatsoever, so long as they follow the rules and norms that apply to everyone else:

Gazprom’s growing role in EU markets is not necessarily a problem. It does not matter who controls energy pipelines and power plants in Europe, as long as the owner respects EU rules on transparency, competition and so on. Given Gazprom’s refusal to allow competition at home, the Europeans are right to ask whether the company will respect market principles abroad. In March 2007, the European Council asked the European Commission’s directorate-general for competition to investigate the possible impact of Gazprom’s growing role on the EU energy market. When Putin subsequently complained about this, Merkel is said to have responded that Gazprom should consider it “an honour to be treated like Microsoft”. Clearly, Russia is in for a “cultural shock”, in the words of one European diplomat, if it has to deal with a regulatory authority that cannot be influenced politically.