‘Speak with one voice’

European Policy Centre responds to Commissioner Oettinger’s energy proposals


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On 7 September, Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger called for "a coherent approach in energy relations with third countries" so that member states can "act together and speak with one voice".

According to this communication, which was adopted by the Commission, the best way of ensuring the security of energy supply is co-ordination and an information-exchange mechanism for bilateral agreements with third countries.

According to Oettinger, this mechanism will "strengthen the negotiation position of member states vis-à-vis outside partners" to guarantee investments, and is thus in line with the 2020 Energy Strategy.

Oettinger also cited his desire to negotiate on behalf of the EU with third countries, if the Council's mandate is obtained – an energy agreement on a Trans-Caspian gas pipeline was put forward as an example of such common- interest goals.

'Fancy' proposals

"The commissioner is doing his job, that’s all, to keep up the spirit and momentum," European Policy Centre analyst Amanda Paul told New Europe. "One shouldn’t mix the realities of industry, competition and rivalry, with the harsh realities of life."

Paul further characterised Oettinger's proposals as "fancy": "Frankly speaking, it all sounds like something for an ideal world," she added, describing the bilateral negotiations between energy companies as being very complicated in reality and normally kept in strict confidentiality because of tough competition.

Trans-Caspian seduction

Thus far, there have been more words than deeds in the realisation of Trans-Caspian gas pipeline, primarily because the Caspian Sea is under special international jurisdiction that allows construction only with the explicit consensus of five states: Azerbaijdzan, Iran, Russia, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. For obvious reasons, both Iran and Russia, being major gas exporters, are not interested in granting permission to sell gas to Turkmenistan.

Additionally, Turkey’s interest in becoming an EU major partner in energy supply would block ongoing negotiations concerning the export of Azeri gas from Shah-Deniz, as Turkish transit tariffs are too high.

"The current problems between Azerbadjan and Turkey don’t allow even for Azeri gas to be delivered to Europe in the requested quantities," Paul added. She underlined that it is very difficult to separate energy policy, because energy is an essential commodity unlike any other. "It may be that the world will be different in the future and this will allow for the realisation of Mr Oettinger's proposals, but certainly not in the foreseeable near future."  

However, Paul  did acknowledge the "seductiveness” of such a TransCaspian project – the analyst is convinced that "business will continue as usual", which means that states will reach bilateral agreements with the third countries, according to the specific interests of each state.

However, concerning outside partners, the EU has broadly hinted at the Russian Federation: "Russia will remain as the major EU supplier," Paul added "and there is no viable alternative to it in the near future."

The rest, however, is more of a political rhetoric by EU elites fighting for their raison d’être.

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