US: Europe should cut dependence on Russia gas

Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, center, stands next to Polish President Andrzej Duda, left, as James Logan Jones, right, Interim Chairman of the Atlantic Council of the United States walks by, at the Three Seas Initiative Business Forum in Bucharest, Romania, Monday, Sept. 17, 2018. U.S. President Donald Trump has reaffirmed Washington's support for a business summit that aims to boost connectivity in Eastern Europe and improve ties between the region and the U.S.(AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Europe should lessen its dependence on Russian gas and diversify energy sources, U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry said Tuesday at a summit to improve ties between eastern Europe and the U.S. and the European Union.

Perry asserted that Europe’s dependence on Russian gas has increased from 30 percent to 40 percent in recent years, calling it “a cause for concern.”

“There is great security in energy diversity,” he said in comments made in the Romanian capital, Bucharest. “Energy security is tantamount to national security.”

Perry said countries of Central and Eastern Europe are facing “challenges due to a single (gas) supplier and Russia’s aggressive posturing.” He cited a nuclear project in the Czech Republic and offshore oil and gas drilling in the Black Sea as alternative energy sources.

Perry was a key speaker at the Three Seas summit, which aims to boost connectivity in Eastern Europe and reduce the gap between the European’s eastern and western members.

Earlier, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said his country wants the U.S. to play a key role in Eastern Europe, to strengthen the continent as a whole.

Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, a centrist with pro-Western views, called the economic presence of the U.S. “a catalyzer for economic cooperation in the area.”

Iohannis, who hosted the two-day summit, announced that Germany, “which has multiple economic interests” in the region, would become a partner state in the Three Seas initiative. He also announced that Slovenia would host next year’s summit.

Perry and leaders including European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic discussed some 40 government-approved projects that aim to boost regional connectivity in transport, energy and the digital fields.

Juncker called for more regional energy projects like a gas pipeline project between Austria, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. He also called for members in the East to respect the rule of law, because “investments make no sense in the absence of respect for the rule of law.”

“Europe needs to breathe with two lungs, one in the East and the other in the West, while the emphasis must be put on cooperation,” Juncker said.

EU members have raised concerns about government changes in Poland and Romania that they say undermine judicial independence.

The Thee Seas initiative is a cooperation of European Union members located between the Adriatic, Baltic and Black seas. Austria is the only member that wasn’t formerly communist. The first summit was held in 2016. U.S. President Donald Trump attended the second summit in 2017 in Warsaw, Poland.

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