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Russia, Italy Agree To Open Each Other's Energy Markets

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Italy's Prime Minister Romano Prodi announced June 20 they have agreed to open energy markets to each other's investors. The two leaders said that Russian companies would be allowed to invest in the Italian consumer market, while Italy's energy companies could take part in Russian production.

The leaders gave no details about the agreement, which comes as Russia and the EU remain unable to agree on a wider-ranging deal known as the "energy charter."

Europe is increasingly nervous about over-dependence on Russian gas and oil, as well as being concerned that investment in Russia's energy fields is insufficient to guarantee needed output in the future. The EU in particular wants to see an end to state-run giant Gazprom's de facto monopoly on gas exports and greater access for European energy companies to Russia's gas market. Moscow, which is enjoying the fruits of high energy prices, demands in return greater access to EU markets, including in the gas retail sector.

Tensions between the EU and Russia heightened in January when Gazprom, which accounts for 26% of EU gas supplies, turned off the taps to Ukraine in a price war that hit supplies some European countries. Since then, a war of words has erupted as the EU reassessed its energy policy and pledged to look toward other energy forms and suppliers.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2006

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