- The Washington Times - Monday, February 13, 2006

Energizing Europe

The head of the European Commission is worried about the future of secure, cheap and abundant energy in a world where the greatest supplies of oil and gas are in some of the most unstable countries.

“We can no longer take secure and affordable energy supplies for granted,” Jose Manuel Durao Barroso told an audience at Georgetown University. “Global energy demand is rapidly increasing, not least because of rising prosperity in China and India.”

He noted that both Europe and the United States are becoming “ever more dependent on oil and gas imports from geopolitically uncertain regions.”

“We have to do something about this, and we have to do it now,” he said.

Mr. Barroso called for the establishment of a permanent “Strategic Energy Dialogue” of political leaders and energy experts to develop joint efforts to reduce dependence on foreign oil and improve energy efficiency.

He proposed that the “dialogue” would: assist in the development of new energy resources in areas like the Caspian Sea and Central Asia; reduce market regulations while “assuring the necessary public interest safeguards”; work to “tackle not just energy supply but also energy demand; and ensure the competitiveness of the European and U.S. economies.

Mr. Barroso said the 25-member European Union is “already the largest importer and second-largest consumer [next to the United States] of energy in the world.”

“We are currently dependent on external sources for 50 percent of our energy needs. Thanks to rising demand and falling domestic production, this could rise to 70 percent by 2030,” he said, adding that more than a quarter of the energy is supplied by Russia.

Mr. Barroso, who heads the executive branch of the EU, was in Washington to receive an honorary degree from Georgetown. He said that when he taught at Georgetown in the 1980s and 1990s, his focus was on the development of democracy.

“The [European] Union today is a powerful tribute to the transformative power of democracy: 25 members states — soon to be 27 — with a combined population of 450 million — soon to be over 500 million people — coming together of their own free will as a union,” he said.

“For the [EU] to forge ahead in its common foreign policy, as in other areas, we need to have the will of the people, and EU citizens have categorically supported an active European Union on the world stage, ready to take on the challenges of globalization and defend the interests of the union.”

India heat

As President Bush prepares for his visit to India next month, his ambassador in New Delhi continues to be a lightning rod for anger from the country’s political left.

Most recently, Indian communists accused Ambassador David C. Mulford of interfering in the domestic affairs of the Marxist-ruled state of West Bengal, where Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya denounced Mr. Bush as the leader of a “most organized pack of killers.”

When Mr. Mulford replied with a strong letter, the communists last week called for his expulsion. That was the second demand in recent weeks for Mr. Mulford to be expelled. The communists complained in January after the ambassador criticized them for opposing free trade.

“After what he said about the left parties, he should be recalled. We expect a response from the government,” Prakash Karat, general secretary of the Communist Party of India-Marxist, said on Friday.

“The U.S. ambassador does not seem to understand how to behave as ambassador. The ambassador has no business to write directly to our chief minister whatever may be the content.”

A dispatch from the Indo-Asian News Service described him as “visibly angry.”

The U.S. Embassy did not comment in the news stories.

Mr. Bush is scheduled to visit India next month.

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