The Union, Energy and the Mediterranean

Soon after I was appointed to head the European Energy Forum (July 1995), we considered two important proposals which were similar in nature but nevertheless perfectly distinct. 

One of them involved energy cooperation in the Baltic Sea region. I shall return to this issue in a different context. The second proposal concerned energy cooperation in the Mediterranean Region.

As regards the Mediterranean Region, we had a very favourable environment at the time: 
– 1995 was the year when the Barcelona process – which laid the foundations for the Euro-Mediterranean partnership – was launched; 
– Also in 1995, Christos Papoutsis – the European Commissioner for Energy was from Greece, a country particularly interested in energy cooperation with the countries of the Mediterranean Basin. 

The project involved the setting up of a parliamentary conference. This kind of conference aims to create appropriate conditions for a fruitful debate among members of parliament as well as between the latter and government officials assisted by technical and economic experts.

Thus, in December 1996 we organised a parliamentary conference on energy cooperation in the countries of the Mediterranean Basin, with the full support and collaboration of the European Commission, represented by its Director-General for Energy, Pablo Benavides. 

The conference was held in Italy, in Catania (Sicily), whose mayor, Umberto Scapagnini, was then President of the European Parliament’s Committee for Energy, Research and Technology (CERT). 

A parliamentary conference that brings together representatives of governments, enterprises and parliaments of all the countries concerned is bound to become a focus of great interest to MPs. This was certainly the case in Catania, where we pioneered this kind of cooperation. 

Following the 1999 European Elections and several years into the Barcelona process, the Presidency of the European Union drew a balance sheet of cooperation in the energy sector. A seminar was held in Granada (Spain) with the participation of representatives of the donors (in the persons of European Commission officials) and the beneficiaries as well as of the companies through which cooperation was being implemented. I was invited since our association includes many companies involved in the process. The same applied to the Director-General of the Mediterranean Energy Observatory.

However, the results of the seminar were rather disappointing, among other reasons because the recipients continually complained about the lack of effectiveness of the actions promoted by EU authorities. I therefore gave up the idea of organising a second Parliamentary Conference.

Now that the Barcelona process has successfully led to the creation of the Union for the Mediterranean and that energy remains more than ever a key concern for most of its partners, I believe it is time to examine the potential benefits of organising a new conference of this kind.

Jean-Claude Charault