Russia's recent aggression is convincing officials that the European Union should become less dependent on Russian energy sources
OTTAWA—The Russian invasion of Crimea is making Alberta’s oil and gas more attractive in European capitals, says Poland’s ambassador to Canada.
Poland supports the idea of importing Canadian oil and gas, envoy Marcin Bosacki said Wednesday prior to the start of a two-day visit to his country by Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird.
“This point of view is being shared in a growing number of European capitals in the last two months since the Crimea invasion,” Bosacki said.
“Of course, we are absolutely in favour of increasing the abilities of … western Canada oil and gas to be exported also to Europe.”
Earlier this week, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk argued in an article in the Financial Times that the European Union should become less dependent on Russian energy sources.
Baird is touring several eastern European countries this week to express Canadian solidarity in the face of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its subsequent provocations in eastern Ukraine.
“The crisis in Eastern Europe underlines the importance of moving ahead responsibly on the export of our oil and natural gas,” Baird’s spokesman Adam Hodge told The Canadian Press in an email.
“Canada is one of the only countries with substantial energy reserves that offers an open and transparent market and the backing of a stable democracy that respects the rule of law.”
Baird wrapped a visit to Slovakia on Wednesday after visiting the Czech Republic a day earlier. After Poland, Baird is bound for Latvia and Estonia.
Russia’s neighbours are worried what Russian President Vladimir Putin may do next. NATO troops are also massing in Poland and neighbouring countries for military exercises aimed at showing the alliance’s support for eastern Europe.
Marcin Piatkowski, a senior Polish economist with the World Bank, said Poland gets 60 per cent of its natural gas from Russia. But other countries such as Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Slovakia are almost 100 per cent dependent on Russian gas.
“Poland is a country that cares a lot about its energy independence,” said Piatkowski, who stressed that he was speaking as a Polish national and not a representative of the World Bank.
He said Tusk’s op-ed this week is significant because he is arguing for a “European wide energy security policy that would allow Europe to become more independent of its external energy suppliers.”
Tusk and Prime Minister Stephen Harper have spoken numerous times by telephone during the Ukraine crisis.
The Harper government has been pushing for Canada to expand its ability to export energy products through new oil pipelines and facilities to liquefy natural gas for overseas tanker shipments.
Harper and Tusk signed an agreement on energy co-operation in May 2012. A year earlier, the government organized a tour of Calgary and Victoria for officials from Poland’s ministries of environment, foreign affairs, and its geological institute where they toured a shale gas site and met with representatives of Canadian energy producers Encana and Talisman.
The issue of Canadian energy exports to Europe came up during Harper’s visit to Germany last month, but Chancellor Angela Merkel was less than enthusiastic because Canada lacks the infrastructure to actually move the products.