Wanted: a single voice on energy

Asked why Washington failed to inform the Europeans on major diplomatic issues, former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger quipped that Europe lacked a single telephone number. That is probably how Russian President Vladimir Putin also feels seeing European Union leaders struggling to come up with a united approach to their dealings with Moscow at the energy summit in Lahti, Finland. On one hand there are the former Soviet satellites in eastern Europe, who are skeptical of Russia, and the governments of France and Britain, who are weary of Putin’s meddling with Russian democracy. On the other, there are countries like Greece and Portugal, which are warmer toward Moscow. Greece has already signed bilateral agreements with the Russian giant. Russian gas already flows into the domestic market, works on the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline continue and an agreement has been signed for the construction of a gas pipeline connecting Russia with western Europe via Turkey, Greece and Italy. It becomes clear that energy talks in Lahti are of particular interest to Greece. The nature and the details of the agreement will have serious implications on the country’s interests. After all Greece is dependent on external sources for 78 percent of its energy. Hopefully, European leaders will overcome their differences and reach an agreement with Moscow. The concerns of the ex-eastern bloc nations and western skepticism over Russia’s human rights record are both legitimate. But the EU has managed to transcend deeper divisions in the past.