Putting energy market integration on the European agenda

Early this year, due to the situation in the region, the first meeting of the High Level Group on natural gas interconnection of the countries in Central and South-Eastern Europe (CESEC) took place in Sofia (Bulgaria). The summit’s aim: to debate the perspectives of regional supply and to find short-term solution for interconnection. Subsequently, on February 25, 2015, the European Commission adopted the European energy union strategy, a concept born as a consequence of the energy dependence on Russia. The persistence of threats and obstacles faced against actual market integration and, especially, the lack of a joint position, have led to the development of a more coherent set of measures adopted at the EU level.

Steps continued and a new high level ministerial summit took place in Dubrovnik, Croatia, during July 9-10, attended by 15 EU states and by the Energy Community from Central and South-Eastern Europe, which decided to intensify cooperation in view of accelerating the building of gas infrastructure connections, as well as to address technical and regulatory issues which affect the security supply and the regional development of an integrated and efficient energy market.

A Memorandum of Understanding was signed, on the occasion of the official launching of this initiative and an Action Plan was approved in order to accelerate the regional projects for natural gas transport. The documents, aimed at a better integration of the EU and the Energy Community energy markets, was signed by the European Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič, by the European Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete and by the Energy Ministers and their representatives from Austria, Bulgaria Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Albania, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia and Ukraine (Bosnia and Herzegovina and Moldova were to sign the documents later).

Under the Action Plan annexed to the Memorandum, a number of priority infrastructure projects were identified, such as the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), the LNG terminal and the exhaust system in Croatia, the strengthening of the system in Bulgaria and Romania, the interconnections between Greece and Bulgaria and between Serbia and Bulgaria, aimed at diversifying the supply sources, so that each state in the region to benefit from at least three distinct sources of natural gas. As regards Romania, three projects have been declared as priorities of gas supply, i.e. the project of the interconnector Bulgaria - Romania, the expanding of the Romania - Moldova (Iasi - Ungheni) pipeline and the reverse flow project between Romania and Ukraine (from the Isaccea interconnection point).

According to the Romanian Minister of Energy, SME and Business Environment Andrei Gerea “the action plan includes several strategic projects for Romania to ensure a gas flow allowing energy independence.” He added that it is about “the projects part of Romania’s energy strategy to ensure reliable and stable energy mix; they also represent strategic objectives for the region and are part of the infrastructure system with which Romania is trying to have a strengthened position in the Energy Union.” The official also stressed that our country is the only country in Eastern Europe with enough own gas output to cope with an energy crisis, meaning that Romania, in addition to the ability to be energy independent, plays an important role in the region in terms of security, including as energy exporter.

As regards the financing of infrastructure projects, generally attributed to the market participants, in this case, to ensure the meeting of the deadline, the CESEC member states take into account the involvement of the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). Also, the projects promoters are encouraged to use the opportunities offered by the new European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI).

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July/August 2015

June 2017