Benita Ferrero-Waldner European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood PolicyInternational co-operation on energy: building a sustainable future for all EU-Africa-Middle East Energy ConferenceSharm El Sheikh, 1 November 2007

20 octobre 2021 Pierre Perrin-Monlouis

EU-Africa-Middle East Energy Conference
Sharm El Sheikh, 1 November 2007

Honourable Ministers,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of the European Commission I am delighted to welcome you here to this conference on energy, bringing together countries from Europe, Africa and the Middle East. We are very pleased to be co-hosting with the Egyptian government whose hospitality, has, as ever, been exceptionally warm and welcoming. Thank you Ministers Aboul Gheit, Fahmi and Younes for looking after us so well.

And a big thank you also to all of you who have travelled from near and far to be with us today. It is a mark of the level of political importance which energy issues have now attained that so many senior representatives are gathered here. Energy is a fundamental and strategic element of sustainable economic growth and thus the prosperity of future generations.

Indeed this is an important moment for our three regions to gather together and discuss the common challenges we face – enhancing energy security, ensuring sustainable energy production and use, improving access to energy services worldwide and developing greater international cooperation.

There is a growing global consensus these issues can only be tackled by cooperation with others. So the purpose of this conference is to bring consumer, producer and transit countries together to establish a broad trans-regional coalition based on areas of common interest.

Whether as producers of hydrocarbons, actual or potential producers of renewable energies, transit countries, consumers, or all of the above, we are all looking for security – security of supply or of demand. Genuine energy security requires both; and without energy security, sustainable economic prosperity will be hard to achieve.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The EU is sometimes accused of only looking East when it thinks of energy security. Today’s conference, bringing together all the major energy players from Africa, the Middle East and Europe for a unique regional dialogue, shows how wrong that impression is.

We are fully aware that the combined energy potential of the three regions gathered here represents a global market of more than 1.5 Billion consumers. It has the biggest energy supply potential in the world, not only the majority of the world’s oil reserves but also nearly half of the world’s gas reserves. And a huge potential for renewable energy; in particular solar, wind, biomass and hydro.

The EU is a major reliable, attractive and growing market for this energy, offering a real win-win scenario. This has already been recognised by many of your companies in the oil sector, for example Q8 and Tamoil. We firmly believe it is in our common interest to use this market for the economic development and well-being of all the countries represented here today.

Dear colleagues,

There is clear added value to be gained from working together to promote our common interests.

That is why the EU has already been taking steps along those lines, by developing a wide range of bilateral, regional and multilateral agreements with our main energy partners. Our objective is to involve them fully in the European energy market, thereby enhancing our mutual economic and energy security.

We are working very actively in the countries covered by our Neighbourhood Policy. At a bilateral level, we are ready to sign an energy partnership with Egypt. We have signed an energy work programme with Morocco and will sign one with Jordan. We are also finalising an agreement with Algeria and discussing a possible programme with Libya.

The aim of these agreements is to promote our mutual energy security through a convergence of markets and legislative frameworks to promote investments, the development of key infrastructures, the exchange of know-how and technologies, facilitate better access to energy services and to promote renewable energies, energy efficiency and energy savings. Let me remind you that today there are more than between 1.5 and 2 Billion humans that have no access to energy.

At the regional level, we have developed comprehensive energy programmes in the framework of the Euromed process. These aim to create a fully integrated and interconnected Euro-Mediterranean energy market. We are working with the countries of the Maghreb to promote the regional integration of their electricity markets. And we are working in the Mashreq region to enhance the gas sector’s security and infrastructure, particularly through our EU-Mashrek gas centre in Damascus.

Where some of you, like our Egyptian host, are looking to develop civil nuclear power, the first port of call is, of course, the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna. International norms are crucial and must be complied with. But the European Commission can support you in developing the culture of safety that it is so important for nuclear energy. The highest standards of safety require adequate legislation, training and technical expertise. In these key areas we can consider offering support. Let me be clear though, questions of infrastructure are for Member States not for the European Commission.

Beyond the Neighbourhood, we are working to strengthen our energy relations with the GCC, in particular in hydrocarbon technology areas and in the exchange of know-how. We need to think about how to move this forward to fully reflect our mutual strategic interests.

We are working to promote the access of Middle East and West African natural gas to the EU market via pipelines such as the Arab Gas Pipeline originating in Egypt and the planned connection to Iraq, as well as, the important Trans-Saharan pipeline from Nigeria to the EU via Algeria.

Before the end of this year we will launch a new EU-Africa Energy partnership which will improve access to reliable, secure, affordable, climate-friendly and sustainable energy services for both continents. A very important element of our cooperation will be access to basic energy services. The EU has already been playing its part in addressing this issue through its Energy Initiative for poverty eradication and sustainable development. But with the new Partnership we will redouble our efforts and open up new opportunities for action, as well as increase investment in energy infrastructures of common interest.

The EU wants to be engaged in all these regions, and is already working hard to develop deeper ties. That undoubtedly serves our own interests, but we hope we can also play a role in promoting regional and intra-regional co-operation of benefit to us all.

We already have a number of initiatives designed to promote regional cooperation and closer collaboration with the EU:

The regional natural gas centre in Damascus, which aims to enhance gas market integration and promote exports to the EU, could now be expanded to cover also integration of electricity markets.

And later today, I look forward to discussing with you an opportunity for a new initiative to boost cooperation between the EU and the regions represented here today in the important field of clean energy technology.

Finally, let me mention renewables, which has become an ever-more important focus for the EU. Although fossil fuels will remain the principle source of energy for many years to come, we know that in view of this planet’s rapidly rising consumption we also need to pursue sources of renewable energy.

This is also important to enable us to meet our obligations on sustainable development and climate change. We will not succeed unless we consider all available and potential technology solutions covering all energy sources.

In Europe, we are actively encouraging the development of renewable energy sources through legally binding targets in our internal market. But meeting these targets will almost certainly be impossible, unless we seek sources of these forms of energy from outside Europe.

We need “green” energy from abroad. And we envisage that that will particularly mean the Middle East and Africa. Many countries in your regions have tremendous potential for developing renewable energy sources, in particular solar and hydro electricity. We believe access to the EU market could be the necessary commercial driver for releasing that very significant potential.

By the end of this year we will, together with Egypt and in full cooperation with our German and Danish colleagues, set-up a regional centre for renewable energy and energy efficiency. This will be an important initiative for enhancing cooperation between the EU and Mediterranean partners in this important domain. Could this also be the basis for the progressive creation of a Euro-Mediterranean green energy market?

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As you can see we are determined to play an active role across these regions, working for a greater level of cooperation for the benefit of the region as a whole. Our partnerships, financial instruments and implementing platforms give us a sound basis for expanding the extent of our cooperation, which we firmly believe is in the interests of each and every one of us gathered here today.

This conference can make an important contribution by affirming this vision of greater regional and trans-regional cooperation, based on the principles of mutual respect and understanding. And we can give it practical effect by identifying a limited number of targeted trans-regional initiatives we could develop together.

I hope this conference will focus on ways of addressing the needs of all citizens of this trans-regional area, tackling questions like:

How can we jointly address the challenge of energy poverty through cooperation between EU, Africa and Middle East countries?

What major energy infrastructure projects should we promote, given our existing involvement in projects like the Arab Gas Pipeline, the Trans-Saharan gas pipeline or the connections between Algeria, Spain and Italy?

How can we work together to support the development of a “green energy market” between EU, Middle East and Africa that would assist, in a very practical way, the development of renewable energy resources, particularly in Africa and the Middle East?

And last but not least, how can we ensure the necessary follow-up to make sure these initiatives are put into practice?

I am sure these and other questions will give rise to stimulating discussions in the sessions to come, and I very much look forward to hearing your thoughts on where the focus of our efforts should lie.

Above all, I look forward to working with you more intensively in the months and years to come, building on the unique configuration of interests this conference represents and deepening and strengthening our partnership. Our objective must be sustainable energy security for the benefit of us all.

Thank you.

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