Essentially this means having a European Energy Minister operating at one level below the new European Foreign Minister - High Representative or whatever opaque name they are giving it this week. It also of course means dining with the Russians, which is where our friend Mr Usmanov comes in.
Europe is beginning to realise that the continent wide dash for gas puts its collective balls in a vice of Mr Putin's making. Take a look at some of the facts. (Mostly culled from an article in EUWatch by Nigel Farage in January)
In Venezuela Chavez is in effect nationalising the energy supply, mainly as a way to have a go at the US.
"Behind the scenes, however, we see Russian hands at play. Russia is arming Venezuela with state of the art weapons systems, and it is unlikely that Chavez’s confrontational anti-American speech at the UN in September 2005 would have happened had he not just received an assurance of some $3 billion of arms supplies. This might be interpreted as an intention to provoke a conflict in the region: This being standard Russian policy where energy resources are concerned, consider the endless civil war in the Caucasus. This is less about fighting terrorism or propping up particular regimes, than it is about deterring foreign investment".Then think about Darfur, the current cause celebre of the caring classes.
"Russia has been supplying arms in defiance of a UN embargo3. More than 200,000Elsewhere, Moscow used ‘environmental issues’ to threaten, and then take over the Sakhalin-2 oil and gas project.
people have been killed in a four year civil war, and the BBC is reporting Russian attack helicopters on the tarmac at Nyala air base, and the involvement of Russian military aircraft in bombing raids in Darfur".
"Sudan is also oil-rich, with most of the reserves in the south of the country. The fact that Southern Sudan is likely to declare autonomy in four years time, taking the oil with it, might explain the Russian interference".
But the EU is going ahead with plans to give Russia a greater say in the environmental management of the Baltic. Could it be that Putin is more interested in the pipelines than his in fish?
The EU boasts that they have other sources of gas than Russia, holding up Algeria as an example of an alternative supplier.
But look closer there already exists a ‘memorandum of understanding’ between Russia’s Gazprom, and the Algerian state controlled gas firm Sonatrach. Indeed, during the dispute between Georgia and Gazprom which we now know to have been directed by Usmanov over price increases in January of last year, Moscow put pressure on the Algerians not to supply gas to the Georgians.
Russia has enacted legislation to freeze out foreign investment on the one hand, and uses Gazprom et al to buy up western energy companies on the other.
And yet they waffle on about renewables, windmills and the like, while trying to convince us that they should be in control of our strategic energy supply. As Lee Rotherham points out for the Bruges Group, the Constitutional Treaty, which will introduce the Energy Minister also has this piece of legerdemain, in Article 176a,
Oh yes and in Article 100(1), we find that the EU gives itself the power to co-opt the North Sea in times of energy crisis.
"1. In the context of the establishment and functioning of the internal market
and with regard for the need to preserve and improve the environment, Union
policy on energy shall aim, in a spirit of solidarity between Member States, to:
(a) ensure the functioning of the energy market; (This will hand Brussels the
power to decide, where and how the oil and gas are sold)
(b) ensure security of energy supply in the Union, and (This could mean that the UK must supply energy to another member-state if they are having problems with their network)
(c) promote energy efficiency and energy saving and the development of new and
renewable forms of energy; (This will make the debate in Britain about how energyis produced irrelevant because Brussels will be making those decisions)
(d) promote the interconnection of energy networks. (This will give the EU a key role as the system guarantor and thus threatening British control over the North Sea reserves)"
Hope you are all feeling warm and comfortable in your centrally heated homes.