Towards a Euro-Mediterranean energy community

Published : Tuesday 28 May 2013

“Energy must be the germ, the base of this interdependence between the North and South shores of the Mediterranean, it must be the base of solidarity and interdependence based not only on trade, but especially on production between countries of the North, the South and the East of the Mediterranean.”

These are the words Jean-Louis Guigou, General Deleguate of IPEMED, used to open the debate on the euro-Mediterranean energy community. Why wouldn’t the Mediterranean’s energy resources increase its attractiveness for investors? For Jean-Louis Guigou, it is impossible to consider building a European energy community without making South and East Mediterranean countries a part of it, as it seems impossible to build a community linking competitor countries that depend on each other in the energy field.

Mourad Preure, associate expert of IPEMED and co-writer of the report "Towards a Euro-Mediterranean energy community" recalled the absolute necessity of initiating a shift in paradigm and moving from an asymmetric relationship to a new conception of energy relationships between countries of the two shores of the Mediterranean. Rethinking this relation is crucial, countries of the Mediterranean need to set up a complementarity that would take into account their strengths and weaknesses and hence, compensate them. He highlighted the main conclusions and recommendations of the report, such as the necessity of integrating producers and consumers in the energy transition towards renewable energy and rethinking energy security in terms of supplies and outlet. Firms must be the heart of this new partnership, as science and technologies must participate in the virtuous circle of co-development.

Houda Ben Jannet Allal, executive director of the Mediterranean Energy Observatory insisted on the importance of taking into account the insufficiency of energy resources in South Mediterranean countries to face challenges of tomorrow. She explained her concern for the rise of energy consumption in SEMCs for the next two decades. She underlined the energy efficiency potential and the possibility these countries have to exploit renewable energies that would reduce the pressure that lies on them, especially on Tunisia. Houda Ben Janned Allal called for an actual energy cooperation between Mediterranean countries. Gwenaelle Huet,  GDF Suez group’s European affairs director agreed on these conclusions and said it was an emergency for Europe to turn to its partners, especially to Mediterranean countries. Following on from major European energy companies’ call for a stable and long term energy policy in Europe the day before the European council of the 23rd of May, Gwenaëlle Huet deplored the lack of results of this policy. In her opinion, it fails at meeting its main goals, among which the reassurance of supplies, sustainable development and energy prices competitiveness. These mixed results open a window of opportunity to implement a euro-Mediterranean energy policy. EMEC would enable big firms to secure their investments and to set themselves in a long-run frame, which is appropriate for costly investments.

Political commitment seems to be precondition to building a new energy partnership between Mediterranean countries. Gwenaëlle Huet and André Merlin, President of Medgrid, emphasized the need of normative and legislative convergence between countries of both shores of the Mediterranean regarding energy policy. For André Merlin, it must be the germ of the EMEC. Given the fact that projects’ technical feasibility and profitability remain the main factors influencing their implementation, it appears that only political commitment and willpower can secure investors. André Merlin assured that Maghreb countries were getting aligned with this process. He ended the debates reminding the crucial role played by gas and electricity haulage infrastructures which must be the base of EMEC project.

Jean-Louis Guigou finally exhorted experts and industrials to overcome the “lack of vision and willpower” that characterizes the world of politicians in order to foster long run investments and the EMEC project. In this purpose, they should size two opportunities: next autumn, the summit meeting between the French and Algerian governments, and the holding of a meeting between the EU and South countries’ energy ministers on the 11th of December.

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