“Vision for the G8 and EU-Transatlantic Relations”
HIS EXCELLENCY WOLFGANG ISCHINGER – The German Ambassador to the UK
& RT HON LORD HOWELL OF GUILDFORD – Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Opposition Spokesman for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs
Questions & Comments from the Floor
Tanya Brisby: What progress is Germany making with Russia?
Sorry to say that Russia says No to the European Energy Charter, as does Norway.
We are trying to work on Russia/Europe Agreement and incorporate energy into that but unresolved issues are blocking it at the moment. European Union believes that with regards energy and transportation issues, it is important to make Russia feel as Western a country as possible as in the distant future the UK may be energy dependent with Russia perhaps being one of the suppliers. Germany wants to make a strong and stable relationship with Russia as the Germans feel insecure, possibly due the historical and geographical reasons.
spoke of the West being too dependent on fossil fuels. “We need to look for energy security as the mix is not right now”. Russian gas is important to the UK as a net gas importer, with the whole EU being at least 30-40 percent on Russian supplies, of which we need a share. Russia also has energy customers in the East and Western Europe are requiring a much greater percentage that that of the UK. Many countries are dependent on Russian gas and Russia has a lesser need to export to the UK than we do to have its import. It is an uncomfortable situation. We need to diversify to such as Norway and have a more balanced energy mix from imports. The pipe links to Russia were even now ‘proving tricky.’ The question of Carbon Emission Control Schemes was then referred to, as was the CBI’s concern over rising energy costs. He concluded by saying that climate and energy security principles are immensely complicated and recommended the book “The Energy Labyrinth”.
Gabrielle Howartson: What is future of the European Union?
We need to reform the EU. It is now much bigger with 27 countries. 20 out of the 27 countries have agreed to maintain the current situation in the EU but it will need to be reworked and reformed. But he recognises that the idea of a new Constitution with the need for a referendum is a non-starter. However, he feels that the present situation where there are 6 month changes of presidency is not a good way of handling/running today’s Europe with 500 million people. There are many more people at the EU table now and it is more difficulty in communication than when it was smaller.
The EU Constitution is a difficult concept for the UK but the EU needs a makeover as it was designed for a different age. It will be even more different with the Turks and Croats. Possibly it should be redesigned on a more flexible basis.
A former Parliamentary Candidate: What do Germans think of the Special Relationship between Blair and Bush and the UK and the USA?
We do not underestimate the strength of the UK/USA Special Relationship and consider that the EU is blessed with the UK Membership because of the ability of the UK to act as a Bridge Builder between Europe and the USA.
UK values the relationship with USA but should not necessarily follow them blindly. Blair and Bush have been pulled down by the whole Iraq conflict. He pointed out that Harold Wilson was amicable to the US but didn’t get involved in the Vietnam Conflict. There may be a realignment in the relationship when Blair steps down. He pointed out that the British learned at Suez that you cannot package democracy and impose it by force.