Energy Security, Shale Gas Towers Over EU-US Summit

  • Date: 26/03/14
  • EurActiv

In the wake of the Ukrainian crisis, leaders meeting in Brussels for an EU-US summit today decided to reduce Europe’s dependency on Russian gas, and deliver a sound basis for a transatlantic trade deal. Mentioning shale gas, the American leader said that the US is blessed with additional energy sources that have been developed in part because of new technologies.

“Forging strong economic ties across the Atlantic is a powerful political sign. A way to show the international community who we are at heart: Economies based on rules, societies based on values and proud of being so,” said European Council president Herman Van Rompuy, speaking at a press conference at the end of the EU-US summit.

The political message came out loud and clear. “The world is safer and more just when Europe and America stand as one,” President Barack Obama said at the same press conference.

Ukraine:  The game changer

The annexation of Crimea by Russia has changed the tone in EU-US relations, sources say. Both Washington and Brussels are more determined than ever to make Europe independent of Russian gas and to push through the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which will ultimately help set common regulatory standards.

Obama’s first term was dominated by tensions over how to grapple with the global economic downturn, and disagreement over measures to tackle the banking and debt crisis, which threatened to slow down economic recovery ahead of the presidential election, in 2012.

Last year’s revelations about National Security Agency spying strained relations between the US and Germany, particularly after it was disclosed that the NSA was snooping on Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The Ukrainian crisis seems to have reversed the tension, and tightened ties between the two trading blocs, after months of fraught relations, due to the surveillance scandal.

Obama stressed that “energy is a central focus of our efforts”, adding that it “will have some impact on the global economy”.

Russia supplies over a quarter of Europe’s gas, mostly in eastern Europe. Last year, Russia’s Gazprom supplied the European Union and Turkey with a record 162 billion cubic metres of gas, of which 86 bcm went via Ukraine.

Gazprom issued a thinly veiled warning earlier this month that it could stop shipping gas to Ukraine over unpaid bills.

Rebuffing the blackmail, Washington and Brussels are assessing ways to further diversify Europe’ s energy sources.

Mentioning shale gas, the American leader said that the US is blessed with additional energy sources that have been developed in part because of new technologies.

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