* 'Strategic agenda' to be published after leaders' talks
* Poland has pushed energy union idea as counterweight to
* Eurosceptics likely to oppose closer integration
By Francesco Guarascio and Barbara Lewis
BRUSSELS, June 23 Europe's best chance of
standing up to the supply insecurity caused by the
Russia-Ukraine conflict is a close-knit energy union to thwart
Moscow's divide and rule strategy, a draft document laying out
the next five years of EU energy policy says.
A week ago, Russia cut off gas to Ukraine because of a row
over pricing and unpaid bills.
Gas storage is ample and no nation has reported problems,
but as the European Union relies on Russia for about 30 percent
of its gas needs, roughly half of which is piped via Ukraine, it
is nervous of knock-on effects if the crisis drags on.
"Geopolitical events, the worldwide energy competition and
the impact of climate change are triggering a rethink of our
energy and climate strategy," a draft document on the "strategic
agenda" for the next five years.
"We must avoid Europe relying to such a high extent on fuel
and gas imports. To ensure our energy future is under full
control, we want to build an Energy Union aiming at affordable,
secure and green energy."
The document is expected to be published after a meeting of
EU heads of state and government on Thursday and Friday.
EU nations are divided over the best response to the
Russia-Ukraine crisis, with some favouring the Russian solution
of seeking to bypass Ukraine via Gazprom's planned
South Stream pipeline. The project was not mentioned at all in
the draft document.
A final agreement between Gazprom and Austria's OMV over
South Stream is expected to be signed on Tuesday when Russian
President Vladimir Putin will visit his counterpart Heinz
Fischer in Vienna.
The giant pipeline would ship gas directly from Russia, via
the Black Sea and into western Europe, making Ukraine all but
irrelevant as a transit nation, but the European Commission, the
EU exeuctive, says South Stream breaches EU law on competition
and intergovernmental agreements.
It has suspended efforts to make it conform, while Russia
has gone to the World Trade Organization in protest at EU
Poland, a neighbour of Ukraine and traditionally wary of
Russia, has spearheaded the idea of an energy union, which has
been gaining Commission support, although it is likely to rile
Eurosceptics, such as Britain, which insist on the right to make
their own energy decisions.
The Commission is also pushing for the broader completion of
the single energy market, with better interconnections across
borders to share out available supplies and even out pricing
Poland's idea is based on countering Gazprom's practice of
negotiating different deals with different nations with a system
for more transparent price negotiations, supervised by the
Commission or another official EU body.
It argues that would foil Russia's strategy of divide and
rule and lower prices for member states most dependent on
Russian gas, who have historically had limited bargaining power.
Ahead of next year's 2015 climate conference in Paris, which
is meant to agree a new binding agreement on climate change, the
draft also says Europe needs to continue to lead the fight
against global warming.
It will be signed by the next Commission president, possibly
Luxembourg's Jean-Claude Juncker, although Britain is opposing
A new Commission will take office after the current set of
officials stands down late this year.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel's party on Monday nominated
Guenther Oettinger for a second term as Germany's commissioner,
preferably keeping the same job of energy Commissioner. The
nomination will have to be approved by the European Parliament
and Commission president.
(Editing by William Hardy)