Perspectives review: EU-Russia energy relations
Original article by: Petr Kratochvíl (Director of the Institute of International Relations) and Lukáš Tichý (PhD candidate at the Metropolitan University Prague) Review by: Kateřina Krejčířová, PR assistant at IIR New research article: ”The EU-Russia Energy Relations under the Prism of the Political Discourse"
The winter is drawing near and you might wonder just how cold it is going to get in the EU this year. The meteorologists’ predictions do not seem to provide a complete answer anymore. More than ever we look to Kremlin for answers as a disruption of gas supplies from the Russian Federation might prove…well…icy.
Lukáš Tichý and Petr Kratochvíl examined a set of text documents produced by the EU in the 2004-2009 period in order to analyze the energy discourse within the EU and thus explore its energy relations with the Russian Federation. The energy-related issues became a significant part of the EU-Russia relations due to the state of mutual interdependence of the two actors, their geographical proximity and common history.
Is Russia a common business partner or a potential threat? Does the EU think about the energy relations in economic or political terms? The authors were able to identify three major approaches to EU-Russian energy relations: 1) the discourse of integration, 2) the discourse of liberalization, and 3) the discourse of diversification. The first two both favor the economic dimension of energy relations talking of liberalizing the markets; however the integration discourse underlines the need of a clear institutional framework on top of that.
While integration dominated the discourse between 2004-2009,the diversification discourse has been gaining prominence since the 2009 energy crisis. This discourse does not see Russia as a reliable energy partner but rather as a problematic one and the energy relations are understood “primarily as a matter directly affecting the security of the EU.” Key terms related to the diversification discourse include “energy security,” “alternative sources” and “energy cooperation with third countries.” It’s thus clear that it aims at the “diversification of transport routes, sources and suppliers to increase the EU’s bargaining power.”
All three discourses see potential areas of mistrust or even possible conflict. Nevertheless, they differ essentially on their imagined ways out. Integration pictures EU as a ‘normative actor,’ promoting its rules and values. Liberalization believes that attempts to maximize economic benefits “motivate actors to overcome their mutual distrust.” Finally, diversification discourse has the sense of the threat at its very core and tries to shield the EU against it. What would you say: is Russia EU’s pupil and a business partner, or its rival and a potential enemy?
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