There’s Barack Obama, the US. President, at the G-7 table, and you can easily feel it. His presence is particularly clear when it comes to the conclusions reached by the leaders on the Ukrainian situation. Among the EU Member States, the will of making diplomatic dialogue a priority has been clear for weeks: with the presidential election the window for talks has been opened, as clearly explained by European institutions, and it could allow de-escalating contacts between the new Ukrainian leader, Petro Poroshenko, and the Kremlin – better not to create tensions with new restrictive measures. Still, new threats of sanctions emerged from the G-7 meeting: “We stand ready to intensify targeted sanctions and to consider significant additional restrictive measures to impose further costs on Russia should events so require,” the leaders said in a statement, considering Russian interferences as “unacceptable.”
G-7 requests to Russia were clear: “the illegal annexation of Crimea and the actions for destabilising Eastern Ukraine are unacceptable and must be stopped,” the Ukrainian President must be acknowledged, the withdrawal of border troops must be accelerated, separatists can be no longer supported nor supplied with weapons through the South-Eastern region. “We’ll see what Putin will do in the next two, three, four weeks,” explained Obama during the joint press conference with the British PM, David Cameron. “Was Putin to continue threatening Ukraine sovereignty, we will have no choice but to react.” A decision on which “it was surprising to see how united we are,” said Obama. There are “remarkable concerns” on Ukraine, even though “it was both useful and significant to keep our structural unity, the precondition for dealing with the issue of our relations with Russia and Ukraine,” said the Italian PM, Matteo Renzi.
Dealing with the Ukrainian crisis, the G-7 has also pushed for an increased cooperation on energy. Leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States has committed themselves to “identify and implement, by each of the governments separately and together” concrete domestic energy policies to bypass Russia and to be less dependent from its supplies. Diversification of energy sources and suppliers, “improvement” of indigenous resources: the first steps of the strategy conceived to reach energy safety progressively.
Still, so far the European G-7 countries will complement the efforts of the European Commission to develop emergency energy plans for winter 2014-2015 at a regional level. The target is being ready for possible interruptions of supplies. The IEA (International Energy Agency) will hence be asked to present “by the end of 2014” options for individual and collective actions of the G-7 in the field of gas security. In the meantime, each G-7 country will conduct assessments of its energy security resilience in order to evaluate the impact of possible shocks. “The crisis in Ukraine makes plain that energy security must be at the centre of our collective agenda and requires a step change to our approach to diversifying energy supplies and modernising our energy infrastructure,” reads the G-7 statement.
It was decided to promote the use of low carbon technologies in reply to the remarkable energy dependence. We are talking about renewable energies, nuclear “in the countries which opt to use it,” carbon capture and storage(CCS) systems. It will then be necessary to promote a more integrated Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) market, including through new supplies, the development of transport infrastructures, storage capabilities, and LNG terminals, and further promotion of flexible gas markets. G-7 leaders asked their Energy Ministers to take forward this Rome G-7 Energy Initiative, and “report back” to them in 2015.
The strategy on which the leaders agreed in Brussels is critical in some aspects though, especially in view of the EU Member States bound to expense constraints: developing a renovated energy market calls for expenses – as well as “continued investment in research and innovation” on which the ‘big seven’ said it is necessary to work. The plan was immediately criticised by Monica Frassoni, Co-President of the European Greens: “There is no common strategy yet,” she said. The decisions taken “they’re trying to sneak easy and fast solution, but these are not sustainable – think about CCS or fracking – without setting up an appropriate political debate.”