EU should consult Russia on energy reforms: Putin

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Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Friday called on the European Union to consult with Russia on energy reforms, saying the bloc's liberalisation plans should not hurt cooperation in the gas market.

Addressing an economic conference in Berlin, Putin said Russia was not against Europe's efforts to liberalise the energy market and make it more competitive as he called for the creation of a "common energy space."

"I believe it is justified that new and fair rules in such a sensitive sphere are developed by our colleagues in the European Union, in the European Commission at least in consultation with Russia as the largest energy supplier."

"Otherwise we will constantly run into absurd situations or conflicts that sometimes appear out of nowhere," Putin said.

Putin has in the past repeatedly slammed EU gas market liberalisation plans, warning that letting smaller players participate in gas pipelines might threaten security of deliveries and lead to price hikes.

As an example of Europe's liberalisation plans hurting Russian companies, he cited a plan by Lithuania to reform its market where Russian giant Gazprom is its only gas supplier.

Vilnius plans to unbundle the country's gas system, separating bulk supply from that piped to consumers.

"When the directive is implemented, Lithuanian consumers will have the possibility to get rid of the monopolistic Gazprom gas supply," Lithuania's Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius said in August.

"What is this? What kind of robbery is this?" Putin said, referring to the unbundling plan.

In his trademark style, Putin jokingly accosted Europe for its willingness to diversify its energy supplies from Russia, indicating it had no other choice but to cooperate with Moscow.

"You what, will use firewood?" he said eliciting laughter from the audience. "But you will need to go to Siberia to get the firewood, too."

© 2010 AFP

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