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Collective Bargaining
EU Energy Union Movement Gathers Momentum

European Union Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger has joined the chorus calling for the bloc to collectively seek a single price for the gas it imports from Russia. Last week, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk floated the idea as a way potentially to lessen Gazprom’s leverage over the continent. Now, as EurActiv reports, Oettinger is pushing the plan from something of a pipe dream (no pun intended) to a real possibility:

Oettinger was speaking after a meeting with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, who promotes an idea of an EU energy union and joint purchase of Russian gas, ahead of talks with Russia and Ukraine on the security of Russian gas deliveries to Europe.

“We want a uniform gas price in the European common market,” Oettinger said at the joint news conference with Tusk.

“The game of ‘divide et impera’ (divide and rule), or a game of this type proposed by Moscow cannot be and will not be accepted by EU member states,” Oettinger said.

Momentum seems to be running counter to this development at the moment; formerly fringe parties are now gaining seats all across Europe, campaigning on platforms of lesser involvement in the European Union. The bloc’s fecklessness has been on full display, too, in its response to Russian aggression in Ukraine and its annexation of Crimea. In that context, collective bargaining for a single, bloc-wide gas price from Russia has some hurdles to clear.

But Oettinger’s comments demonstrate a willingness to try, and why not? If anything, it’s surprising that the European Union hasn’t attempted to approach Gazprom as one before this; the Russian gas company has proven adept at using individual countries’ need for its supply to jack up prices (as Ukraine is now very publicly experiencing). With the odds of a shooting war erupting in eastern Ukraine looking ever more likely, an EU energy union would not only ensure a lower price for Russian gas, but would also help galvanize member countries at a time when it’s very important to present a unified front.

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  • Andrew Allison

    If the EU were to demonstrate an actual benefit (rather than the costs), e.g. lower natgas prices, for the citizens of its member states there wouldn’t be quite so much questioning of its worth.

  • Charles Scheim

    I haven’t studied basic economics for a long time but how can joining together to purchase gas going to cause Russia to lower the price if they are still going to buy the gas from Russia? What am I missing?

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