* Eurosceptics likely to oppose central EU powers
* Analysts say idea could be taken up in part
* Uranium buying system offers a model
* Security of supply focus displaces climate debate
By Barbara Lewis
BRUSSELS, May 26 Poland's call for European
Union nations to work together in price negotiations with
Russian natural gas exporter Gazprom is gaining
support spurred by the crisis in neighbouring Ukraine.
Following a tour of European capitals to drum up backing,
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk was invited to Brussels last
week to present his idea at a conference on energy security
alongside top European Commission officials.
Tusk argued that just as it took the euro zone crisis to
make a banking union happen, the Ukraine crisis should lead to
an energy union.
"The only way to overcome crisis is by going for a European
approach," he said.
Poland has been one of the strongest advocates of a tough EU
response to Moscow's seizure of Ukraine's Crimea region.
Germany and Italy, the biggest EU buyers of Russian gas in
volume terms, back a more cautious approach on sanctions on
Yet there are signs of gathering support for Poland's
approach, with EU leaders expected to debate the idea at a
dinner on Tuesday and at talks next month.
The idea will also feature in a report on energy security
due from the European Commission on Wednesday.
A draft prepared for a June meeting of energy ministers seen
by Reuters says there is a need to "examine the potential for
measures to strengthen the bargaining power of the EU and its
member states vis-à-vis external suppliers".
The aim is to counter Gazprom's practice of negotiating
different deals with different nations.
Russia is the EU's dominant external supplier of gas,
providing around a quarter of demand, and is locked in a price
dispute with Poland's neighbour, Ukraine.
Some east European states, 100 percent reliant on Russian
gas, also complain they have had to pay more than the EU
EU diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the
Polish idea had support and even German Chancellor Angela Merkel
had not totally ruled it out.
"We have not got a clear 'no' in Berlin," one diplomat said.
"Some of the issues have to be reflected on."
Diplomats said a country's negotiating hand would be
strengthened if an official from the Commission were present at
negotiations with Gazprom, although some member states have in
the past resisted this, arguing it gave too much power to the
Eurosceptic Britain for one is likely to oppose any increase
in centralised EU powers.
"Quite a lot of member states share the objective, but seem
to have doubts whether this is feasible in terms of trade and
competition law," another diplomat said.
The Commission's official view is that forming a single
energy market through better infrastructure to allow supplies to
flow freely is the best way to harmonise pricing.
The Commission's strategy on energy security, seen by
Reuters, also says mechanisms to increase bargaining power would
need to avoid any breaches of law on fair competition.
As an example of how such an approach might work, it cites
joint purchasing of uranium through the Euratom Supply Agency.
Euratom, the European Atomic Energy Community, aims to ensure
all EU users of nuclear fuels get regular and equitable access
Dieter Helm, a professor at Oxford University, said Poland's
central gas buyer idea was not necessarily incompatible with the
laws of the EU single energy market, if the gas were auctioned.
Euroscepticism would limit how much support Poland could
garner from fellow member states, Helm said, but its idea could
be implemented in part and provide "a positive and lasting
legacy from Russia's annexation of Crimea".
According to one diplomat, Europe's increased focus on
energy security might hamper efforts to agree new EU climate and
Proposals include a goal to cut carbon emissions by 40
percent by 2030 versus 1990 levels, which Poland has been
resisting as a major user of carbon-intensive coal.
A solution being considered involves "dropping the focus on
climate policy and rather focusing on security of supply," said
the diplomat, who asked not to be identified.
(Additional reporting by Nina Chestney in London; editing by