ECONOMY

EU talks with Russia

BRUSSELS (AP) – Seeking to secure and diversify its energy supply, the European Union will hold talks with Russia this week and meet with officials from other oil and gas exporting nations. Europe’s energy demand is growing as its own supplies of North Sea oil and natural gas dwindle and world prices soar. Facing the prospect of importing 70 percent of its energy over the next 15 years, the EU wants to shore up relations with reliable energy exporters while looking for new partners and new routes. It is eager to step up ties with Russia, which now supplies a quarter of Europe’s oil and over two-fifths of its gas. But it may be forced to lower its expectations, as Moscow balks at including energy trade rules in a new strategic partnership to secure its lucrative oil and gas reserves for Russian companies. Unless Moscow changes its tune, Poland has threatened to veto the start of negotiations with Russia on Friday. Finland, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency, will try to win Polish support for the talks this week. The EU will also throw open the doors to other energy players, holding a major conference in Brussels today and tomorrow where European ministers will mingle with officials from Norway, Ukraine, Nigeria and Azerbaijan and executives from energy companies Gazprom OAO, EOn Ruhrgas AG, Royal Dutch Shell PLC and BP PLC. This is the first time the EU has placed itself as the voice of Europe on energy issues, taking over from individual efforts from its 25 member states as they struggle to deal with a more complex international scene.