Energy security: Realizing a virtuous circle versus running in a circle
- Written by Vlad-Adrian Iancu
It seems that lately the EU has really started to lose its focus. From conflicts to not so spectacular exits, it seems that economy is just the victim of an elaborate practical joke. How long can the EU just run around in circles and give fuel to the long lasting paradigm of dooming oneself? We’ve seen it all: from terrorists, immigrants, racists, to ‘exiters’, victims and dictators. Doesn’t this look like a bad re-run? We know where this is going and how it can affect the economy. The EU is now in the race for saving face. Stability is the only key to surviving these troubled times. Or, as they call it: security. Can Europe reach that faraway land where all have access to energy and nobody is starving? The European League for Economic Cooperation thinks that it can be done. The Special Bucharest Conference that took place on April 26 gave us some talking points and apparent solutions. Let’s review some of them and ponder on reaching energy security in the Black Sea area. Yes, it is about us.
As they have put it, most eloquently I might add, energy security is finally about ‘having’. You either have energy or you don’t. You realize you need something when it is in short supply, when the environment you inhabit suddenly comes up short of that resource. In order to tackle this, you need environmental sustainability. These last years have provided the region with a lot of technological advancement that may in time allow a change in the dynamics of energy policy and finally bring about energy independency. Happily, the leaders have finally taken a holistic approach to the problem. Energy now covers all the areas: gas, coal, renewable, heating and electricity. This approach also applies to countries and EU supports all South-Eastern countries in coming together and pulling in the same direction. Regional stability can only be ensured by a partnership that guarantees cooperation and better relations. The strategic side wasn’t left out and the people in charge realized that the world is indeed changing and along with it are the dynamics of the energy market. The technological advancements and oversupply are democratizing the market. Its realities will have to be treated differently, with more care and attention dedicated to further investments and projects. Everybody should accept that this is a buyer’s market. This has generated talks of a New Europe that will achieve a new economic corridor between the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea by bringing Ukraine into the fold. And this stands on Romania and Poland’s shoulders. Last but not least, there have been important discussions about cyber security and whether it is cost effective.
Remember, the focus is on the Black Sea region. And the numbers really tell the story. The countries are too far apart in development to make a lasting bond. At the moment the gaps can’t be filled: “One third of Bulgarian households are unable to keep their houses warm, while in Serbia the number goes to around 40%”. To further illustrate this let’s consider the fact that Romania’s energy intensity is 2.5 higher than EU-28 average, while in Bulgaria and Serbia it is five or six times higher. The Black Sea has indeed some important resources but it will take time to tap into them because of the issues that need to be overcome: technical, commercial or geostrategic. This is where the gas connectors come in. But in order to realize them, the SE countries need a shared perspective. A union between Eastern and Western Europe is also needed and this could be facilitated through better policymaking. But in order to achieve that, most of the countries must face the reality that they will never be a regional gas hub, just a transit area. It’s not about the little guys and the big guys, but about shaking hands towards a better common goal. Europe is only as strong as its weakest link. Whether Romania will cheer from the sidelines or take part in it, the game is moving forward. We have a history of being the odd one out; let’s make the team this time.