RIGA, June 4 (Reuters) - The Baltic region, encompassing Russia, Germany and the Nordic and Baltic states, needs secure supplies of energy for its economies to prosper, leaders said on Wednesday, and Moscow promised to oblige.
“We want to make the Baltic Sea region the most dynamic region and the fastest growing economy in Europe,” Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen told a news conference.
Leaders and top officials attended a Council of the Baltic Sea States’ summit to map out regional cooperation. The council’s importance has been overshadowed by most of its members being in the EU, with which Russia has direct talks.
A declaration after talks in the capital of Latvia, the outgoing council president, backed 5 cooperation areas: environment, economy, energy, education, culture and civil security.
“The Heads of Government underline that stable and secure energy supplies are important for the economic growth and welfare in the region,” the document said.
Security of supply has been a major issue for Europe which gets 25 percent of its energy needs met by Russia. Moscow has argued with transit states such as Ukraine and Belarus.
Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov said his neighbours need have no worries. “Russia is and will be the most reliable energy partner on a global scale,” he said.
One issue of concern for some in the region is Nord Stream, a 7.4 billion euro ($11.54 billion) project for a pipeline under the Baltic Sea, direct from Russia to Germany.
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, whose nation is a transit state for Russian gas, said a new overland pipeline remained the best option from an economic point of view, but that it was up to the builders of the pipeline to choose their own route.
Latvian Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis said that from Shuvalov’s words at the meeting it was clear building a new pipeline would not mean the closure of current routes.
“The discussion about the pipeline was not critical. Some members of the Council of the Baltic Sea States said their opinion in a constructive way. I didn’t hear the critical subtone of the previous years,” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told reporters.
Denmark is to take over the council’s rotating presidency. (Reporting by Patrick Lannin and Angelika Stricker; editing by Robert Woodward)
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