Britain to target Russian energy in upcoming EU presidency

May 04, 2005 02:00 AM

Britain will seek to focus the European Union's relationship with Russia on energy issues and not democracy concerns when it takes over the rotating EU presidency later this year, the British ambassador to Moscow said.
"The interests of the EU and Russia complement each other in this area because Russia is a major exporter of energy resources to the EU," Ambassador Anthony Brenton told.

Britain assumes the EU presidency from Luxembourg on June 1. Brenton suggested that growing concerns in the West over a perceived backslide in democratic reforms in Russia would not hurt the EU's relationship with the nation because President Vladimir Putin expressed the same concerns in his state of the nation address in April.
"Yes, there are concerns in the UK" about democratic progress in Russia. "Happily, those are also concerns held by President Putin," Brenton said.

He outlined a lack of national media coverage of opposition politicians, a lack of an independent judiciary as well as "aggressiveness" in the tax system as some of the issues that worry Britain and that Putin has also acknowledged as areas of concern.
The EU's relationship with Russia under the British presidency would be "a matter of vigorously cooperating" on the agenda set out by Putin, according to Brenton.

Britain became the second-largest foreign investor in Russia's economy last year thanks to a massive natural gas project in the far east and British Petroleum's $ 6 bn (EUR 4.6 bn) joint venture with Russian oil company TNK, Brenton said.
The Russian government recently presented TNK-BP with a $ 1 bn bill for back taxes in an episode that reminded many investors of the government's tax case against crippled oil giant Yukos.

Source: Petroleumworld
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