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Barroso to talk ties, energy security with Putin next week


BRUSSELS, January 29 (RIA Novosti) - European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso plans to meet with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in Moscow next week to discuss Russia-EU ties, energy security, a commission spokesman said on Thursday.

Amadeo Altafaj Tardio said the meeting would take place as part of a session between Russian government and European Commission officials. The session will also be attended by EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs.

Russia's European Union envoy Vladimir Chizhov said on Thursday the session would be held on February 6.

The meeting will come in the wake of a bitter natural gas debt and pricing row between Russia and Ukraine that led to an almost two-week cutoff in supplies to Europe earlier this month as Russia accused Kiev of stealing its EU-bound gas.

The 27-nation European Union receives about a quarter of its gas from Russia, 80% of which is pumped through Ukraine. Disputes between Russia and former Soviet transit nations have made EU states uneasy about energy dependence on Russia.

Russia has been hard hit by the global credit crunch and falling oil prices and needs buyers for its natural resources.

Speaking at the opening of the World Economic Forum in the Swiss Alpine town of Davos on late Wednesday, Putin said the current financial crisis, which has already brought down energy prices, could lead to a global energy shortage.

Putin said the dramatic decline in oil prices could trigger cuts in investment in the sector and production, and as a result "uncontrolled price hikes" which could later hamper economic revival and pave the way to a new crisis.

He said "the only way of ensuring real global energy security is to build inter-dependence, including through asset swaps." He urged fair energy prices "cleared as much as possible" of speculative transactions.

The Russian premier also highlighted energy transit as a major problem threatening uninterrupted supplies. Putin proposed fixing free market-based transit tariffs and the diversification of supply routes.

The meeting with European officials will take place ahead of a third round of long-delayed talks on a new comprehensive cooperation pact due in Brussels on February 13.

Talks on the deal were repeatedly delayed, initially by Poland and Lithuania, and most recently over Russia's August conflict with Georgia. A decision to resume the negotiations was made at the Russia-EU summit in Nice in November, despite objections from Lithuania.

Moscow earlier said that some EU members had tried to use the treaty to pressure Russia.

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