By George Markopouliotis
THE dependence of the European Union on third countries for its energy supply is not something new. We spend 1 billion euros everyday to import 53% of the energy we use. This makes us vulnerable in times of crisis, something that became clear during the temporary disruptions of gas supplies in the winters of 2006 and 2009.
The recent the crisis in Ukraine brought to the fore a new dimension. Developments there underlined the need to act in order to reduce our energy dependence on third countries. Following a request by the leaders of the 28 Member States, the European Commission recently tabled a comprehensive strategy to reduce import dependence. Diversifying external energy supply sources, upgrading energy infrastructure, completing the EU internal energy market and saving energy are among the main points of the strategy. The strategy also highlights the need to coordinate national energy policy decisions and the importance of speaking with one voice when negotiating with external partners.
More specifically, the strategy calls for completing the internal energy market and building missing infrastructure links to respond quickly to possible supply disruptions by directing energy flows across the EU as and where needed.
It also calls for diversifying supplier countries and routes. In 2013, 39% of EU gas imports by volume came from Russia, 33% from Norway and 22% from North Africa (Algeria, Libya). While the EU will maintain its relationship with reliable partners, it will seek ties to new partner countries and supply routes, e.g. in the Caspian Basin region. Increasing indigenous energy production: This includes further deployment of renewables, and sustainable production of fossil fuels.
Improving coordination of national energy policies and speaking with one voice on external energy policy is also called for. The Commission aims to be involved at an early stage in intergovernmental negotiations with third countries that could have a possible impact on security of supply.
Increasing energy efficiency. As buildings are responsible for 40% of our energy consumption and a third of natural gas use, this sector plays a crucial role.
Europe wants strong and stable partnerships with important suppliers, but must avoid falling victim to political and commercial blackmail. The current situation is a test of our resolve, our determination and our unity. And all this comes together in the field of energy security. In fact the Ukraine crisis once again shows that for Europe energy independence is crucial. We have to explore all the possibilities which make this goal reachable. European cooperation and integration is the right way – the only way, indeed – to overcome such challenges.
The comprehensive strategy we tabled is an important step in this direction and will be discussed at the forthcoming European Council on the 26th and 27th of June. The European Commission counts on the strong support of the European leaders, since increasing energy security is in the interest of all of us.
George Markopouliotis is Head of the Representation of the European Commission in Cyprus