Energy cooperation in South-East Europe and the Mediterranean is a central element of the EU’s goal of delivering a stable, secure and thriving Mediterranean gas market that gives people across the region secure, competitive and sustainable energy.
To that end the EU, together with the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) established three platforms: one on regional electricity markets, one on renewables and energy efficiency and the third one, the UfM Platform for Gas, that was launched this June in Brussels.
With support of the Observatoire Mediterranean de l’Energie (OME), the Gas Platform is expected to strengthen security of gas supply in the region by promoting regional cooperation around gas exploration and production, by supporting the development of necessary infrastructure and by reinforcing regional gas trade exchanges, making the Mediterranean basin a major gas marketplace in the future.
Below we posted a shortened version of an interview the Greek Energy Forum has conducted with Dr Houda Ben Jannet Allal, the Secretary General of the OME, on key issues regarding the newly established UfM’s Platform for Gas, as well as on the future of energy cooperation in the Mediterranean This interview was first posted here by European Energy Review:
Following the UfM gas platform’s launch in June, what are the next steps in terms of the platform’s development?
The working guidelines were agreed at the last ad-hoc meeting held in July in Barcelona (this is the formal endorsement). They can be reviewed periodically in the future in the light of the progress and functioning of the platform.
The further steps of the Platform development are very clear: first the background report on gas will be finalized shortly; second a work programme is being prepared, based on the contributions from actors in the Platform. Finally we are considering organising events to promote a shared view on the common future of gas in the Mediterranean Region.
Do you see synergies between the UfM gas platform and the Association of Mediterranean Energy Regulators (MEDREG)?
The Mediterranean regulators association has been fully involved in the development of the UfM platforms and is fully entitled as a stakeholder in the UfM Platform on Gas. And clearly, the regulatory framework is one of the key elements of the Platform focus areas.
How do you envisage the overall role of the UfM gas platform in facilitating the creation of the Mediterranean Gas Hub?
Working on the potential role of Mediterranean Gas Hubs is one of the main aims of the UfM Platform on Gas. It is proposed that a specific working group will focus on that issue: the concept, its pertinence for the region and its possible ways of implementation. Since the UfM Platform on Gas gathers all the relevant stakeholders, its guidelines and recommendations will surely be taken into account by the UfM Member States.
Previous attempts at forging stronger relationships in the field of energy in the Mediterranean have faced some challenges due to competing interests as well as geopolitical intractable issues, such as the Cyprus problem. Could the UfM gas platform help facilitate solutions and how could those look like in practice?
As the UfM Platform on Gas is not a political gathering, such a question will not be debated. Rather, the debates will cover issues related to the development of resources and of the energy systems, looking for global benefits, focusing on contributions to the economy and to sustainable development. Hopefully such debates will inspire stronger cooperation in developing energy projects in the region.
How do you view the evolving situation in the Eastern Mediterranean – with particular focus on developments in Egypt (Zohr discovery), as well as Israel and Cyprus?
The eastern Mediterranean is already regarded as a focus point in the proposed Platform work program. The importance of the gas discoveries and their potential contribution to the eastern Mediterranean energy security and also to the European gas supply security will be mentioned in the platform background report which is about to be finalized.
The debates within the gas platform should make a real contribution to the analysis of the optimal development of these resources, how they can deliver benefits to the countries involved and contribute to the regional energy security. This analysis should yield proposals for possible infrastructure options, and their respective benefits and also market integration and increasing gas exchanges.
How feasible is it to proceed with so-called ‘Euro-Mediterranean projects of common interest’ that are mentioned in the draft UfM terms of reference?
One of the objectives of the UfM Platform on Gas as set in the terms of reference is to identify energy projects of common interest of UfM Members and highlight needs in terms of developing Mediterranean domestic and sub-regional energy markets. Because of the multi-stakeholders structure of the platform, such identified projects would benefit both suppliers and consumers wherever they may be.
Furthermore, since such projects will come out of debates between the stakeholders in a bottom up approach which will review regulatory, technical and economics issues, they will create strong interest for their implementation and financing.
This is what we will strive for in all cases!