Security of EU energy supply
Delivered in Plenary - 22nd March 2006
Energy security and diversification of the source of supply has dramatically risen up the political agenda this year following the use of the ‘gas weapon’ by Gazprom against Ukraine and Moldova over the New Year period. It is no longer a technical matter confined to technocrats and has become as much a part of the CFSP as the remit of energy ministers.
As rapporteur for the European Neighbourhood Policy, I was very conscious that many of the member countries – e.g. Algeria and Azerbaijan – were producers of oil and gas, and others were central to the pipeline transit systems of fuel to western Europe, such as Ukraine. I have repeatedly made a case for a stable Kazakhstan to join the ENP, as it is eager to get away from the risk of economic and political dominance by Russia and China and could indeed supply not just oil and gas but also uranium to the European Union, as we will inevitably have to build more nuclear reactors to satisfy Kyoto and not be over-reliant on unstable regions of the world –such as the Middle East, Venezuela or Nigeria, to name but a few – for fossil fuels.
I respect the anti-nuclear countries, such as Austria and Ireland, but new technologies such as transmutation, will, I believe, one day solve the long-term, high-radiation waste concerns of the general public.
Obviously, a lot also needs to be done by the Member States – preferably through intergovernmental cooperation – to work towards more energy efficiency, to develop more technologies in the form of renewables, but also to interconnect their electricity grids in a pan-European system, which will drive down prices and allow spare capacity. There is also a need to connect the existing oil and gas pipelines between the EU Member States. Spain is apparently virtually self-sufficient but isolated in this respect, and the Baltic countries are too reliant on connections to Russia, but have now agreed, much to their credit, to a new nuclear power station between themselves.
I also believe Russia must be encouraged to join the Energy Charter to prevent it from stopping third countries using its pipelines. There is also a clear gap in that the International Energy Agency allows only for strategic oil reserves, not for gas reserves. Some Member States of the European Union seem to have no reserves at all.