Energy Interdependencies between the EU and Russia: Anything but Institutions?
This dissertation offers a thorough analysis of European-Russian energy cooperation. It sheds light on the question: why is there a lack of binding institutionalization of the EU-Russia energy relationship despite the high degree of interdependence between the two sides? It is primarily focused on identifying the main actors on both sides of the relationship. This allows us to understand whether there are causal implications between the interest formation and the lobbying power of the crucial actors on the one hand, and the lack of binding governance structures in the EU-Russia energy cooperation on the other. It speaks to the body of literature examining the failure to cooperate in situations of high economic interdependence. Questions such as do multilateral agreements really matter to the main actors on both sides of the EU-Russian energy relationship form the core of this dissertation. My study differs from dominant liberal and constructivist interpretationsin that it links in a comprehensive way the influence of the main actors (i.e. the big gas companies) and the lack of binding governance structures regulating the relationship. Hence, unlike other analyses it finds that the central influence of the industrial gas lobby on decision-making processes is the direct cause of the lack of binding governance structures. It is therefore an alternative to studies that either conceptualize the institutional deadlock as a consequence of structural deficiencies on both sides, or as an outcome of a normative clash. In contrast, I point to the primacy of the private sector and I argue that the influence and the behavior of strategic corporate actors is key to understanding the deadlock. A crucial focus lies on the current paradigm changes in the European gas pricing systems, which widen the already high interest gap between the two blocs. Although being theoretically grounded in the realist tradition, in focusing on the large potential of cross-border cooperation this dissertation employs an innovative and complementary perspective. I investigate various angles on different levels of the complex interdependent relationship, such as the sub-regional level. Yet, the most distinctive feature of this work is the emphasis on the dynamic causal pathways between the influence of the strategic corporate actors and the weakness of governance patterns in the EU-Russia energy relationship. I show how the corporate sector’s pressures on both sides of the relationship ultimately shape and predetermine the configuration of EU-Russia energy governance structures. While evidence about the centrality of the corporate sector strengthens the conclusions of a growing body of research, this study provides an original causal explanation that links the interests of the big energy firms and their reluctance to be locked-into binding governance structures, with the energy governance deadlock. My propositions are tested empirically through an array of qualitative methods (interviews, case studies, analysis of legal and policy documents). I believe that my findings will contribute to the debate on energy relations between the EU and Russia, and help improve our understanding of the role of the corporate sector in relation to weak governance structures.