Europe’s thorny Energy Diplomacy
On 20 July, European foreign ministers launched the new EU Energy Diplomacy Action Plan. It is a welcome first step towards ensuring that energy plans are coherent with EU foreign policy objectives and core European values. However, the first priority of this plan remains focused on opening up new gas import routes and accessing new gas fields. Such a diversification plan fails to consider the worsening security risks that energy producing countries face: new form of extremism, conflicts, social and economic instability, and the impacts of climate change.
Algeria, for example, is considered as one strategic alternative to Russian supplies. However, serious doubts have been raised over whether Algeria would be able to increase and even maintain its gas exports to Europe. Jerome Ferrier, President of the International Gas Union, recently highlighted Algeria’s “unstable politics, higher domestic demand and insufficient capital” as major constraints to drive investment in costly new exploration and production. Current projections shows that Algeria will likely consume everything it extracts by 2030, becoming a net energy importer soon after. Additionally, unprecedented environmental protests are disrupting the country’s multibillion-dollar shale programme, increasing political instability across an already unstable North African region.
As tensions across fossil fuel producing countries increase, even maintaining existing energy supplies will be a significant challenge. The advances of Islamic State (IS) in Libya and Tunisia, threatening the oil and gas complex of Mellitah, prompted the Italian Government to prepare a detailed military plan to protect key energy infrastructure. This included Greenstream, the longest gas pipeline into Europe departing from Mellitah. On Sunday 18 July, four Italian construction workers were kidnapped near the compound, located 30 km west from Sabratha, home to the IS base that trained the Sousse attacker and the two gunmen responsible for the slaughter at the Tunis Bardo museum.
This shows why energy diplomacy simply cannot treat energy security in isolation to broader foreign policy challenges.
For the complete article, please see Euractiv.com.