The Russian Federation signed the European Energy Charter – a political declaration on the development of multilateral international cooperation in the energy sector – in 1991. In 1994 followed the signing of its legally binding framework – the Energy Charter Treaty and the Energy Charter Protocol on Energy Efficiency and Related Environmental Aspects. The ECT entered into force in 1998. Russia used the possibility of the ECT provisional application and repeatedly returned to the consideration of this issue at the level of the State Duma accompanied by broader discussions in academia and business community, however, the document was never ratified.
In 2009 Russia terminated the provisional application, stated its intent not to become an ECT Contracting Party and presented a Conceptual Approach to the New Legal Framework for Energy Cooperation, which laid the foundation of the Draft Convention on Ensuring International Energy Security of November 2010. However, Russia remains a signatory to the ECT and participates in the Charter Process, although it has not paid its contributions to the budget of the Organisation for 2010-2014. The status of Russia in the Energy Charter and, in particular, the prospects of its further participation are not fully defined.
In 2009 the Conference decided on the modernisation of the Charter Process (largely driven by Russia's actions). Since 2012 one of the key areas of modernisation has been consolidation – strengthening relations with countries that have signed the ECT, but have not ratified it: Australia, Belarus (provisional application), Iceland, Norway and Russia. The consolidation is aimed at a closer cooperation with these countries and, ideally, the ECT ratification by them. In this respect, it is worth reverting to the discussion on the risks and benefits for Russia from participating in the Charter and clarifying the position on this issue, which was mostly formulated in 2009 against the backdrop of the gas conflict between Russia and Ukraine. The last five years have brought about some considerable changes in the situation around the Charter participants, such as the implementation of the Third Energy Package by the European countries, Russia's accession to the WTO and the initiation of the Eurasian Economic Union. Furthermore, the new Ukrainian crisis has increased the interruption risks of Russian gas supplies to Europe and forced the European Union to intensify the search for ways to reduce energy dependence on Russia.
Turning to Russia's interaction with the Charter at the present stage, the following work plan could be proposed:
- Describe the role and special characteristics of the Charter and the ECT
- Define Russia's interest in participating in such an organisation and the options for its interaction with the Charter
- Summarise existing arguments for and against Russia ratifying the ECT
- Evaluate their relevance in current circumstances (taking into account development outlooks) and identify potential new risks and benefits, as well as points of contention
- Formulate recommendations concerning the possibility and modalities of Russia’s further participation in the Charter.