Energy Charter Conference suspends transit talks

Dec 11, 2003 01:00 AM

Negotiations among fifty-one governments on a legally binding international agreement on energy transit issues were suspended. This conclusion was reached at a meeting in Brussels of the Energy Charter Conference, once it became clear that a unanimous decision to adopt the agreement -- known as the Energy Charter Transit Protocol -- could not be achieved on the basis of the final compromise text put forward by the Chairman of the Conference, Henning Christophersen.
The Transit Protocol, negotiations on which were launched in 2000, aims to build on the existing transit-related provisions of the Energy Charter Treaty, by developing an enhanced set of rules under international law governing energy transit flows across national borders. Agreement was reached on the bulk of the Protocol’s text at the end of 2002.

There remained only a few outstanding issues to be resolved before the Protocol could be finalized, all of which related to differences in position between the European Union and Russia.Bilateral talks held between these two parties during this year, with the aim of finding solutions to these remaining issues, led to the tabling of a final text for adoption at the meeting on 10th December.
At the conclusion of the meeting, the Conference Chairman issued a statement urging all Contracting Parties and Signatories to the Energy Charter Treaty to be guided by the principles of the draft Transit Protocol when regulating the transit of energy through their territories, pending the Protocol's formal adoption and signature.

In addition to this formal statement, Henning Christophersen commented as follows after the meeting:
"I deeply regret that we were not able to achieve a unanimous decision by the Charter Conference in favour of adopting the Transit Protocol. It remains my view that the text on the table reflects a fair balance of interests, and offers solutions that all parties, including the EU and Russia, should be able to accept. It is even more regrettable that, in my judgment, this outcome was largely determined by factors unrelated to the substance of the proposed text of the Protocol itself."

"Under these circumstances, I consider, as Chairman, that there is no purpose to be served by continuing the negotiation process at this time. Nonetheless, we have not closed the door on the negotiations forever, and I have tasked the Energy Charter Secretariat with reporting back to the next meeting of the Charter Conference in June 2004 regarding the prospects for completing our work on the draft Protocol."
"It cannot be denied that this outcome represented a serious setback for the Energy Charter process. But the fundamental issue at stake has not altered - namely, that problems affecting energy flows in transit, via pipelines and grids, represent a major potential risk for the collective energy security of the countries of Eurasia. It therefore remains the case that governments need to create a multilateral framework of rules on transit issues, which will help to mitigate this risk as far as possible.”

“Despite the decision, there is no more appropriate forum within which to conduct this work than the Energy Charter process, in view of its geographical coverage and the legal foundation on which it is based.”
“Several of our member-governments -- including, I should underline, the Russian government -- made it clear at the meeting that they share this opinion. But, as the Transit Protocol has demonstrated, the Charter’s potential can only be fulfilled if there is a true political commitment on the part of all our member-states to draw up such rules and subscribe to them."

Source: The Energy Charter Secretariat
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