The 5th anniversary of the Energy Community
The EEF team would like to wish its readers a very Happy New Year!
Last year we have organized more than 20 events – dinner/lunch debates, MEP assistants’ briefings and visits – facilitating the debate between key players in the EU energy field. We have significantly improved our image, with the new website and new presentation materials such as associate members’ booklets and the EEF presentation leaflet.
The EU institutions announce a courageous agenda for 2012 in the field of energy: infrastructures, Energy roadmap 2050, off shore oil drilling, renewable, nuclear safety, etc. With the ambitious Danish presidency programme, the energy will be on top of EU’s agenda once again.
The EEF will help its members debate the hot topics of the year and we rely on your feedback to improve the quality of our events. Best wishes from the EEF team!
In the beginning of this new year, I wanted to take the opportunity to celebrate with our readers the fifth anniversary of the Energy Community, an international organisation which is unique, useful and efficient, but to a large extent unknown.
The EEF was closely associated to the birth and first steps of this international organisation which links EU to the Balkan states. Indeed, our President Giles Chichester was rapporteur in the EP on the Energy Community Treaty and the EEF organised a dinner debate in Strasbourg in 2006 on the establishment of the Energy Community and a conference in 2007 in Sofia, Bulgaria. Moreover our previous President, Dr Rolf Linkhor, was the key panellist of the ceremony organised in Vienna on 24 October 2011 on the occasion of the 5th anniversary of the creation of the Energy Community. Commissioner Oettinger was invited on that occasion as guest speaker and I would like to share with our readers some significant excerpts from his speech:
“Five years might appear to be a short period of time in the life of international organizations. In the case of an organization that was conceived for an initial life span of 10 years, today’s Anniversary represents a milestone.
As we all know, it all began with the technical negotiations known as “the Athens process”, which led to the signature in 2002 and 2003 of Memorandums of understanding, as a first step for non-EU countries in South East Europe to come closer to the European standards in the energy field.
The concept for building an Energy Community between the European Union and the same countries, proposed by the Commission a couple of years later, was a courageous concept. It was based in our conviction that sharing specific goals and promoting technical cooperation would help overcoming the political burden of recent history. While it was a courageous undertaking, the concept was not new: pooling energy resources was indeed at the very heart of the origins of the European Union itself!
Five years after the entry into force of the Treaty, the Energy Community has grown into a mature organization, which provides a sound institutional framework for cooperation, mutual support and exchange of experiences.
Its Secretariat, based in Vienna, represents the cornerstone of this institutional architecture, and I would like to thank its Director, Mr. Slavtcho Neykov, and all members of its staff – whom I am glad to see among us today – for their professional work, their devotion and enthusiasm, which have made the Energy Community institutions what they are today.
The interest in the Energy Community is growing throughout the region, as highlighted by the accession of the Republic of Moldova and of Ukraine. With the enlargement of the Energy Community, the size of the potential regional market has almost tripled (from approximately 26 million inhabitants to around 73 million). Two weeks ago, Armenia was accepted to participate in the work of the Energy Community institutions together with other observers: Turkey, Norway and Georgia.
The centre of gravity of this project – which was inspired by a strong EU preaccession component – has therefore started to shift towards the East. The Commission welcomes the interest shown by third countries, but recalls that we should only accept new members that are truly willing and capable to assume the same commitments as our Energy Community partners.
The Energy Community faces paramount investment challenges which result from the modernization of the electricity transmission and distribution networks and interconnectors, from the EU standards on energy efficiency or from the implementation of key environmental provisions aiming at reducing the emissions from large combustion plants. This will require modernizing existing generation plants or decommissioning and replacing a number of them in the coming years.Let me finish by recalling that we have a long road ahead of us, and that we are facing challenging times where, more than ever, all of us – Contracting Parties, Member States and EU institutions and bodies – will have to show our commitment with the Energy Community project. Our support and daily contribution to the Energy Community institutions will be decisive for achieving one day one single energy market within the broad Europe. “