Mechanism for international cooperation: Necessary or unfeasible?
8 September 2011, Europolitics
The European Commission’s communication on security of energy supply and international cooperation (1)(see Europolitics4259), published on 7 September, was welcomed by the European People’s Party (EPP), but was labelled as one-sided, unfeasible and potentially problematic by British Conservatives, Greens and industry representatives.
The communication proposes a mechanism for exchanging information on member states’ bilateral energy agreements with third countries; would give rights to the EU to negotiate energy deals; and calls for strengthened energy partnerships with Europe’s neigbours.
European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek welcomed the proposals, which could help the EU present “a single interface in its relations with producer and transit countries”. He called the creation of a real European Energy Community just as important a task as the 1992 single market project, because “the EU must have the ability to pool its supply capacities and to engage in coordinated energy purchasing” to face future challenges.
His views are supported by fellow EPP member Jacek Saryusz-Wolski (Poland), who considers the developments an opportunity to develop a proactive energy diplomacy. “We are making progress on the internal dimension of energy policy, but as tectonic changes in energy geopolitics are taking place, we also need external policy tools. This communication can provide the EU with adequate instruments to become a global actor.”
However, not all parties share the same enthusiasm. Giles Chichester (ECR, UK) calls the proposals “an attempt to control and interfere with member states’ individual trading interests on a new and deeply worrying scale, which pose worrying questions about business confidentiality, commercial sensitivity and the fairness of any bidding process”.
The Greens in the European Parliament would like to see a broader perspective in the type of resources mentioned. According to Claude Turmes (Luxembourg), the plan “is preoccupied with an antiquated approach looking to ensure fossil fuel deliveries to the EU, with no attention given to forming strategic alliances with those countries looking to push forward with ‘green’ energy technologies”. He also pointed out that the calculations are based on an unrealistic analysis of the future export capacities of source countries, such as Russia or the Mediterranean region. This observation is confirmed by Kjetil Tungland of Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), a competing project in the Southern Gas Corridor: the Caspian region has a long-term potential to become an important gas supplier, “but to assume that this could become a route for 10-20% of EU gas demand by 2020 is far too optimistic”.
This is partly due to uncertainties around future energy deals. Based on past experience, CEE Bankwatch, a network monitoring European financial institutions’ activities, is even worried about the promised positive political and social effects that infrastructure mega-projects could bring in targeted developing countries.