European Commission proposes increase in powers to control energy resources abroad; Libya next on the agenda

15 Sep 2011 admin

The European Commission has for the first time submitted proposals for a concerted public foreign energy policy – termed ‘External Energy Policy’ within Euro circles. The EU has been acting collectively to control oil & gas resources and transit routes for many years – financing pipelines with public funds, lobbying for access to African, Middle Eastern and Russian resources, and securing control of these through treaties like the Energy Charter. However, in the past this has been largely ad hoc and un-coordinated.

Construction of the Yamal-European pipeline (photo: General Electric)

Now the Commission wants to take leadership over the EU’s external energy policy, and prevent individual member states from negotiating their own individual agreements. The proposals will probably be met with doubts and concerns by governments in countries with existing aggressive foreign energy policies, such as Britain and France.

The Commission’s proposals published last week argues that a “pro-active exernal energy policy” is vital to enable the EU to “establish a lead position in energy geopolitics” and to “contribute to the competitiveness of the European industry” by controlling energy supplies and flows from neighbouring energy regions and expanding militarised “energy corridors” as far as Iraq, Nigeria and the Arctic.

Specific new actions associated with this proposal include:

* Negotiating with Turkmenistan (run by Dictator/President Berdimuhamedow) and Azerbaijan (run by Dictator/President Aliyev) for construction of a large gas pipeline across the Caspian Sea. If built, this would enable Turkmen gas to be pumped west to Azerbaijan, enter the South Caucasus Pipeline across Georgia and into Turkey – before transferring to the controversial and yet-to-be-built Nabucco pipeline from eastern Turkey to Austria. European diplomatic pressure for the Trans-Caspian pipeline is an attempt to expand the European Gas Grid eastwards, into Central Europe.

* Expanding the Energy Charter to North Africa. The Commission’s proposals argue that the “importance of the Mediterranean region in EU energy supplies is growing” for fossil fuels and that therefore the EU should “be more actively engaged in promoting the development of energy infrastructure in this region.” Energy infrastructure that directs the flow of oil & gas towards Europe that is not for local consumption. The Energy Charter Treaty offers a means for the EU to maintain a level of control over oil & gas resources in host countries and transport systems. Russia has made clear that it won’t join the Energy Charter, since the Russian state has become strong enough to avoid locking itself into a framework designed to protect European market access. Instead, the Commission proposes redirecting and expanding the Energy Charter to North Africa.

The EC Communication specifically highlights Libya as next on the agenda. “Following the demise of the Gaddafi regime” the EU will “facilitate Libya’s full integration in regional and EU-Mediterranean energy cooperation structures” as well as supporting European companies attempts to re-enter.

During his press conference, EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger implied that new actions will be aligned with development policies etc. However, reading the proposals it becomes clear that it is the EU’s development policies that will be redirected to meet the stated energy goals. Finance distributed through European IFIs like he European Investment Bank will be redirected towards ensuring “energy security” and “energy access” after 2013. This when the EIB already contributes to destructive impacts by financing oil, gas and coal projects.

The European Commission’s proposals give little indication how the proposed external energy policy will be subject to democratic decision-making, accountability and public oversight in Europe – let alone in those non-EU countries targeted for their fossil fuel resources.

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