Opening speech at the EuroMed Energy Ministerial Conference
Dear Ministers, Your Excellencies, Distinguished guests,
I would like to thank Minister Michaelidis for hosting this meeting and Minister Pinho for the initiative to put this Ministerial meeting on the Presidency agenda.
It has been a long time indeed since the Euromed Energy Ministers last met. This was in Rome, in December 2003, at the 4th Euro-Mediterranean Energy Conference. Since then, many things have changed in our countries and societies. As far as the European Union is concerned, we have passed from 15 to 27 Member States, thus becoming a much bigger market of over 500 million citizens. Just a few days ago, the EU Member - States have signed the historical Lisbon Treaty which, after ratification by the end of 2008, will bring important changes to numerous policy areas, including energy.
And our global energy landscape is very different too, which requires us to take a new dimension into account in our energy relations. This is why we are here today: to take stock of the progress achieved, and agree on the future orientations and priorities for our cooperation, taking into account the latest developments in the global energy markets.
The importance of our dialogue is illustrated by your numerous and high level participation. I would especially like to welcome the colleagues who have travelled a long way to be here today, from the EU Member States, as well as from the Mediterranean Partner countries. It clearly confirms that energy is effectively one of the main focus areas of the Euromed Partnership.
And I should convey my special gratitude to our distinguished speakers, including Minister Khelil, Minister Fahmy from Egypt, Minister Ezra from Israel and Dr Kittaneh, Chairman of the Palestinian Energy Authority.
In my introductory remarks, I would like to give you a short insight in what we have achieved recently in terms of EU energy policy reforms and in the Euro-Mediterranean cooperation.
Since the beginning of this year, the European Union has launched an ambitious reform of its energy and environment policy. It is our response to the global energy security and climate change challenges. As the world’s biggest importer of energy, and second biggest consumer, it was important for us to show leadership.
On the basis of a Commission's proposal, the Heads of State and Government of the 27 Member States have committed themselves to a low-carbon energy future. A future that reinforces Europe’s competitiveness safeguards, our environmental objectives and ensures our security of supply.
The energy and climate change package adopted in spring this year contained an ambitious, but achievable, headline target: to reduce EU greenhouse emissions by at least 20% by 2020 compared with 1990 levels - a target that we are keen to increase to 30%, if other developed countries join us.
This is an essential first step on the road to our ultimate goal: to reach a shared vision on reducing global emissions by at least 50% below 1990 levels by 2050. Nothing less will do if we are to limit global warming to 2°C above pre-industrial levels. This objective is the basic driver of our policies. After the Bali conference on climate change, we must advance on the agreed agenda to combat climate change on all fronts, including adaptation, mitigation, clean technologies, deforestation and resource mobilisation.
Our comprehensive energy and climate change package rests on five pillars:
- First, energy efficiency measures, aiming to save 20% of our energy by 2020;
- Second, a substantial increase of renewable sources: tripling renewable energy use to 20% by 2020, and requiring a 10% biofuel component in vehicle fuel by 2020 as well. This policy will be based on binding national targets.
- Third, a substantial increase in the amount of clean hydrocarbons we consume. Great technological advances are being made to reduce the carbon emissions from hydrocarbons – for example through the capture and storage of carbon dioxide.
- Fourth, strengthening of the EU’s carbon market, which already covers 50% of our energy emissions and represents a market value of more than €20 billion.
- Last but not least, we are continuing in our efforts to forge an open and competitive internal energy market. Key in this context is the separation of production and supply from transmission networks in order to create a genuinely Europe wide market for gas and electricity. The single European energy market will continue to be open to our partners around the world, as long as they play by the same rules as our companies. In other words, we will protect and ensure fair competition in our newly liberalised market.
These proposals and decisions have an important impact on our external energy relations. The EU is progressively putting in place a common external energy policy with shared policy objectives. The guiding principles in our external action are transparency, inter-dependence, reciprocity and rule of law.
On the basis of these principles, we are gradually developing a new form of energy dialogues and partnerships that focus on progressive convergence between the EU and our partners' policies.
We are stepping up our efforts to strengthen energy relations under the Euromed process. With the inception of the Barcelona Process, we have been working together with our Euromed partners for more than 10 years now, towards the common objective of progressively creating an integrated and interconnected Euro-Mediterranean energy market.
We are running regional and sub-regional energy projects which would contribute to the gradual harmonization of our respective regulatory frameworks and enhanced market integration for both gas and electricity. In addition, loans for nearly 2 billion Euro have been given by the European Investment Bank over the past 3 years to support energy infrastructure projects, notably to complete the electricity and gas links in the region.
We are deepening our relations not only at regional and sub-regional levels, but also progressing at bilateral level in the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy and its instruments. The aim of these are to promote our mutual energy security, of both demand and supply, through a harmonisation of markets and legislative frameworks, to promote investments, and thereby creating the enabling conditions for the development of key infrastructures. This cooperation also covers renewable energies, energy efficiency and energy savings.
For the next four year period, the EU will devote more than 3.2 billion Euro for the Euromed cooperation. A good share of this could be channelled to the priorities identified in the Action plan that we shall adopt today. This financing will be in combination with Member States bilateral cooperation envelops, the Facility for Euro-Mediterranean Investment and Partnership of the European Investment Bank, as well as other instruments such as the upcoming Africa Infrastructure Partnership.
This region has a great potential. If we combine the potential gas production of Algeria, Libya and Egypt, by 2020 gas exports from the Maghreb to Europe could reach the level of Russian gas exports. There is also a huge potential offered for renewable energy, in particular solar, wind and biomass. On its side, the EU is a major reliable and attractive market, offering multiple business opportunities that enlarge the number of potential outlets for the Mediterranean energy resources; in other words offering a real 'win-win scenario'.
We should seize together these opportunities that lie ahead of us. This is why I firmly believe, it is in our common interest to establish an integrated energy market amongst our countries and use this leverage for the economic and social development of the whole region.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to say that I have every confidence in our Mediterranean partner countries matching the EU in our determination to build closer energy relations than ever before. Our meeting today represents a major step forward in our joint work towards achieving an enhanced energy security, competitiveness and sustainability for the Euro-Mediterranean region. I am looking forward to working more closely with you in the future and I thank again the Presidency, Minister Pinho, as well as Minister Michaelidis for their commitment and contribution in order to achieve very successful results today.