Berlin, 11 and 12 December 1997
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am very pleased to welcome you all here, and in particular Minister Rexrodt, Mr Scapagnini and our distinguished panel of speakers.
We are here to consider ways and means of promoting the development of the Trans-European Energy Networks.
Before describing the achievement to date, I would like to give you the background on how the Networks came to occupy the central position they do today.
About two years ago, the Community adopted a White Paper on European Energy Policy. The main objectives set were:
security of energy supply through the diversification of energy sources;
the promotion of the competitiveness of energy and the wider industrial sectors; and
the obligation to protect the environment.
The contribution of energy to social and economic cohesion was not overlooked.
To these policy objectives, the Energy Networks make a special contribution. In fact, they go beyond them, to contribute to another of the Union's objectives - that of job creation.
We have found, following the Delors White Paper on "Growth, Competitiveness and Employment", that the Energy Networks create employment both at the initial construction stage and further on. That is why they are mentioned, in the subtitle to the programme of this Conference, as vectors of job creation.
The Energy Networks are also vectors of competitiveness : it is clear that a competitive energy sector contributes to more competitive energy-intensive industries. This is due to the greater variety of energy supplies which the Networks deliver, and to their role in enabling energy trade to take place under conditions of increased liberalisation.
Concerning the environment : the Networks ensure its protection both in the sense of treating it with respect, and because they enable the trade of more environmentally-friendly energy sources like gas and electricity.
The Union's cohesion is strengthened every time, the Networks bring a new source of energy to an isolated area of a Member State.
The contribution of the Networks to security of supply has been the major concern behind our thinking on the "external dimension" of the Networks.
This is mainly for two reasons:
much of the Union's energy comes from outside its territory, and
the increasing globalisation of world markets, with a corresponding need for more diversified and secure energy supplies.
The European Energy Charter provides an overall framework for this external dimension. And the Commission's Communication in March this year on the external dimension of the Trans-European Energy Networks pointed the way to enhanced coherence between the internal and external policies of the Union, as called for in Agenda 2000.
I think I have placed the Networks within the Policy context. I now turn to the means by which they can be developed. Of course the initiative for Energy Network projects lies mainly with the energy industries themselves, and with the private financial sector. However, there is also an important role for governments in the selection of projects and in their support. But, beside this, there is a firm legal and policy base in the Treaty and the Energy Network Guidelines, agreed in June of last year, which reflects the need to strengthen Europe's infrastructures, as expressed in the Maastricht Treaty of 1992.
For the development of the Energy Networks, more than seventy projects have so far been identified as projects of common interest.
About thirty projects are of mutual interest, involving Member States and countries outside the Union. Studies have been progressing on projects in areas from the Baltic Sea to the Balkans on optimum gas and electricity interconnections. We have also begun the identification of projects of regional interest in the non-Union countries themselves, though this is a longer-term co-operation process.
I would like to expand somewhat on the process of identifying these projects in the Balkans. During the past year, a Task Force on Balkan energy interconnections has been working to identify inventory, evaluate and establish priorities.
The result is a list of gas, electricity and oil interconnection projects which was endorsed by all the Ministers responsible for energy from the Balkan (and Black Sea) countries just two weeks ago in Bucharest at the conference entitled "EU- Black Sea: extending cooperation between Two Key Players in the World Energy Market".
A range of programmes are available to assist in Network development outside the Union:
SYNERGY, the Union's international Energy co-operation programme,
PHARE, the programme for Central and Eastern Europe,
TACIS, the programme for the New Independent States, and
MEDA, the programme for the Union's neighbours in the Mediterranean.
The Trans-European Networks budget can finance, studies on projects of common and mutual interest, while studies on projects of regional interest may be financed by PHARE, TACIS and MEDA.
The PHARE programme could also possibly support capital expenditure in specific cases. In this conference we shall also be hearing about the possibility of loans from the European Investment Bank and other european and international financial institutions.
What will be the shape of future Network development?
Here, we can see strategic reasons for axes not only between East and West, but also between Ireland, the UK and the Continent; between Northwest and Northeast Europe; between the continent of Africa and the countries of Southern Europe, and around the Mediterranean Basin.
The Adriatic region, too, has been through a difficult period and there is a need to integrate its energy supplies and to connect them with the main European Networks as well as with individual neighbour countries.
This process, we hope, will contribute to peace and security in the region. Nor should we forget the countries of the Black Sea and the Caspian, whose vast energy resources need to be made available to consumers in Europe.
The Transport, Telecommunication and Energy Networks will also play a vital role in the integration, both politically and economically, of the applicant Member States.
Progress has already been made, and the new financial package proposed in Agenda 2000, for the period 2000-2006, specifically envisages increased support to Network investment there.
Before concluding, I would like to say a few words about the Energy Council of the eighth of December 1997.
The most significant result of this Council is the unanimous agreement on the common position on the internal market in natural gas.
The agreement represents a decisive step, expressing strong political will, to complete the internal energy market, following the agreement reached for the internal market in electricity, for which the Directive was published in February 1997. This agreement opens up new opportunities for the development of the energy TENs.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This Conference represents an opportunity not only for the exchange of views, but also for the initiation of ideas for future concrete development. The next G8 in Moscow at the end of March 1998 will be dedicated to Energy and will demonstrate the key role Energy policy has to play in the geo-political context.
When we consider the stakes, the securing of energy supplies and the economic success of East and West, we must make the best use of the time and the expert knowledge which we have here today and tomorrow.
To show the progress so far, I asked DG XVII to prepare a video on the development of the Trans European Energy Networks. We will see it in a moment.
To use an image from this video, the Energy Networks of Europe and its neighbours need the elements of nature if they are to grow. And this Conference will play its part in the process: as sunlight, as earth or as water. I leave you to decide.
Thank you for your attention.