On November 2, 2016, “Russia–EU Relations in the Period of the Slovak Presidency in the Council of the European Union” seminar was given by the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) in cooperation with the Embassy of the Slovak Republic to the Russian Federation and the Delegation of the European Union to the Russian Federation.
The seminar agenda covered the following issues: priority areas in EU policy during the Slovak Republic Presidency in the Council of the European Union; and the opportunities for Russia-EU energy cooperation.
The meeting was attended by more than 10 Ambassadors of EU Member States to Russia; Vygaudas Ušackas, head of the Delegation of the European Union to Russia; Andrey Kelin, director, Department of European Cooperation; RIAC members; experts from MGIMO University of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, IMEMO of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and Institute of Europe of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Slovakia was represented by Igor Greksa, director, Department of Policy Analysis and Planning, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Slovak Republic; Jaroslav Vala, senior specialist on energy issues, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Slovak Republic; Pavol Zatlkaj, temporary charge d’affaires, Embassy of the Slovak Republic to Russia. The seminar session on energy cooperation issues brought together the following speakers: Mikhail Margelov, vice-president, Transneft, JSC, vice-president, RIAC; Vladimir Likhachev, deputy director, RAS Energy Research Institute; Vladimir Pereboyev, director of a department, Centre for Integrative Studies, Eurasian Development Bank. The opening speech was made by Igor Ivanov, President, RIAC.
Seminar “Russia–EU Relations in the Period of the Slovak Presidency in the Council of the European Union”
Igor Ivanov’s Speech
Ladies and Gentlemen, dear friends!
On behalf of the Russian International Affairs Council let me welcome all of you here for our next regular EU–Russia discussion, this time — in the framework of the Slovakian Presidency in the European Union. Some of you present here know that the chain of these discussions goes back to 2014, when RIAC had the first event in this format together with the Italian Embassy. In 2015, we had the privilege of co-organizing meetings together with the Embassies of Latvia and Luxemburg, and earlier this year we had a very interesting and rich discussion on the agenda and priorities of the Netherland’s Presidency in the EU.
We are very pleased that our colleagues at the Embassy of Slovakia agreed to continue this tradition and to co-organize the fifth meeting, which we have today. Let me extend my thanks to Pavol ZATLKAJ, Chargé d'affaires of the Embassy and all other members of his team; without their commitment and without hard work of the Embassy this event would not be possible. Our special welcome goes to Igor GREXA, Director of Department of Analysis and Policy Planning from Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic
Let me also express our gratitude to the European Delegation to Russia and personally to Ambassador Vygaudas Ušackas for his continuous support and enthusiasm for the second track dialogue between Russia and the European Union. I would also like to recognize Andrey KELIN, Director of the Department of European Cooperation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation; we do appreciate the attention and support we receive from the Ministry.
As you can see from the suggested agenda, we followed the established tradition and divided our discussion into two parts — a review part and a thematic priority part. The first session is focused on the overview of the developments in the Russia–EU relations in the last six months. This period was filled with many events ranging from Brexit to the parliamentary elections in Russia, and to the recent Minsk group summit. I think that it is important to compare our notes on the overall trends that are shaping our relationship.
The second session is devoted to the Russian–EU cooperation in the field of energy. This is one of the most significant and, at the same time, one of the most controversial areas of the EU–Russia cooperation. Can the two sides reconcile differences in their approaches, overcome suspicions and move to a more stable, reliable and comprehensive energy partnership? I am sure that we can generate innovative, out of the box ideas and proposals for Moscow and for Brussels.
I am looking forward to a very frank, open and inspiring discussion.
Mikhail Margelov’s Speech
Today we’re going to discuss a topical issue of the Russian-European policy in light of the Slovak presidency this year. Exchanging views is the best way to approach the issues of international relations. As you know, I’ve been in politics for many years. But today I’m joining this discussion not as a politician, but as a senior executive officer of a major industrial company. 2 years ago I joined the Russian oil transporting company, Transneft. This new experience made me realize that on many occasions a business-oriented approach may be much wiser than a policy-ruled one.
Today we’re going to talk about the Russian-EU Energy Cooperation, and first of all I’d like to tell you about one nonprofit, nongovernmental B2B organization.
The pipeline transport has always been the most important and most preferable means of transportation of crude oil and petroleum products. It is also the most profitable and comfortable one, as crude can be quickly delivered over large distances with minimum human interference. Low cost efficiency and high environmental safety matter, too. There is no doubt that the pipeline transport will go on playing its major role in sustainable and reliable supplies of crude to the world markets.
Our company is the largest oil transporting company in the world, having over 70 thousand km of trunk pipelines in operation. But Transneft wouldn’t be able to safeguard regional energy security without its partners in other countries. When we speak about Europe, crude supplies and European energy security, we can’t skip Druzhba oil pipeline. It starts from the oilfields in Russia’s Volga Region and runs to Belorussia, Ukraine, Poland, Czech and Slovak Republics and Hungary. The national pipeline operators in these countries are our reliable partners and friends (fully justifying the pipeline’s name, which means “Friendship” in Russian). For years, we have been maintaining tight bilateral relations, yet there was no comprehensive multilateral mechanism, one that could tackle our common issues, of which we’ve always had plenty.
No wonder then, that in 2012 Druzhba pipeline operators started negotiating the idea of creation of an international discussion platform. The idea was to exchange opinions, analyze and solve a variety of issues and tasks arising in the course of pipeline transportation of crude and refined products.
The idea was really good, but there had to be a catalyst to start the reaction. The Czechs proved to be most enthusiastic, so the International Association of Oil Transporters was registered in Prague in late 2013 by MERO CR, a Czech company. One year later, it still remained the sole member of the Association. Only in December 2014, CEOs of oil transporting companies from Russia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Belarus signed a Memorandum on joint participation. In January 2015, Transneft joined the Association, followed by Transpetrol from Slovak Republic, Gomeltransneft Druzhba from Belarus and MOL Group from Hungary three months later, in April 2015. So, as a matter of fact, it was in 2015 that the IAOT was officially launched. Its first practical Governing Board and Assembly were held in Moscow in September 2015.
From the very beginning the Association proved to be an effective mechanism for the promotion of cooperation and development of new areas of business in the oil and petroleum products pipeline transport. Now it has grew up to a sort of an online connection between the operators of oil and petroleum products pipelines, so they can discuss topical issues of cooperation and make decisions together without cutting through red tape.
Other national oil transporting companies expressed their interest in accession to the IAOT as well. The Association is open to new members. The accession of both KazTransOil from Kazakhstan and China National Petroleum Corporation was voted affirmatively by all the acting members in September 2014 and May 2015 respectively. The observer status was granted to the Caspian Pipeline Consortium. Besides, Ukrtransnafta, PJSC (Ukraine) took part in some of the Association meetings, but as an invited participant.
3 specialized permanent working groups were established in the Association to expand its objectives and activities.
Permanent Expert Group on Energy Efficiency
All IAOT members pay special attention to new technologies allowing to reduce energy consumption. The Permanent Expert Group on Energy Efficiency was established to share experience in the sphere of energy efficient technologies. Here I must say that energy efficiency is a very sensitive issue in oil transportation. The sector traditionally consumes a lot of electricity. Information on real energy expenses of an oil company, or in other words: how much it costs to move a ton of oil for one hundred kilometers is classified and cannot be found anywhere. In the framework of this group we freely exchange this info, make benchmarking studies and share best practices.
Permanent Expert Group for Supplies
The Group was established to assess supply and demand prospects for oil and oil products. During its meetings the Group considers plans for keeping the IAOT participants’ infrastructure loaded. Its primary objective is to promote development of oil transportation and storage, in order to foster safety and sustainability of supplies.
Permanent Expert Group for Legal Issues
The Group’s goal is to harmonize international legal rules and standards in the field of oil and petroleum products pipeline transportation.
Another type of regular meetings of the Association members are so-called technical visits to the members’ facilities with the purpose to exchange experience in applying innovative methods and techniques of oil and oil products pipeline transport.
We believe, that in the world of a more and more globalized economy and oil market, membership in the Association is a practical tool for oil companies to build up efficient bilateral and multilateral ties at all levels, to exchange updates on the industrial topics, to use all experience and technology of the world at their facilities, and, after all, to strengthen the overall energy security of the world.
Close cooperation of oil transport companies, as well as the results of this interaction within the Association show that business community seeks to strengthen and develop relations for effective global economic cooperation, in spite of the challenging political environment.