So much fuss was raised over the comments made by Joe Biden about Russia a few weeks back, as suddenly so many of his political opponents were concerned about hurting the feelings of the besieged siloviki or the derailment of reset diplomacy – which they had also criticized. However, one thing that Biden pointed out was beyond argument – that Gazprom’s bullying conduct has resulted in a much more serious and assertive European Commission, advancing a number of strong policies and pushing forward with the Nabucco pipeline project (although Iron Joe seemed to be under the impression that it was an oil pipeline, but whatever…). Finally, it seemed, that Europe was getting its act together in acting for a common energy policy, instead of the bilateral relations preferred by Moscow, which allowed for disaggregation and greater political leveraging against Eastern states.
However, even on a bilateral level, there are steps being taken by individual European governments toward intervention in the energy sector to guard against the abuses of monopolists. Here Ed Crooks at the FT has a story on a new report coming out in the UK which is indicative of a quickly emerging policy trend in Europe – one that appears to be driven by Russia’s moves.
Malcolm Wicks, the former energy minister appointed by Gordon Brown as his special representative for international energy issues, will say that “the time for market innocence is over” and that the government needs to do more to safeguard electricity and gas supplies.
His report, published by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, raises concerns about a new “dash for gas” that could make Britain more dependent on imports from countries such as Russia, Algeria and Nigeria. (…)
“The era of heavy reliance on companies, competition and liberalisation must be re-assessed,” he said. “We must still rely on companies for exploration, delivery and supply but the state must become more active: interventionist, where necessary.”