Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, warming the planet eighty-six times as much as carbon dioxide (CO2) over a 20-year period, before decaying to CO2. While the focus to reduce climate change has rightly been placed on carbon dioxide, methane is the second most important greenhouse gas contributing to the warming experienced to date. It is also a major precursor of ground-level ozone formation, a pollutant that negatively impacts health and crop yields. Reducing methane emissions is indispensable in the fight against climate change, in line with the Paris Agreement’s goals, the European Green Deal and the EU Climate Law.
The most important question that we must answer is: why should we act now?
Climate actions to reduce methane are often included as ‘CO2 equivalents’ in national climate plans, like in commitments made by countries under the Paris Climate Agreement. But the impact of methane and carbon dioxide are not equivalent.
More than half of global methane emissions stem from human activity in three sectors: fossil fuels (35%), waste (20%), and agriculture (40%). In the fossil fuel sector, oil and gas extraction, processing, and distribution account for 23%, while coal mining accounts for 12% of global anthropogenic methane emissions. In this framework, it is important to proceed with an ambitious revision of our environmental legislation, such as the Effort Sharing Regulation and the Landfill Directive.
In the energy sector, imports account for over four-fifths of the oil and gas consumed in the EU, and most methane emissions associated with oil and gas are occurring outside EU borders. That’s why we must explore regulatory tools on fossil energy imports, develop methods with importing and partner countries to align our efforts, and secure a UN-based pathway on methane in 2021. In the meantime, we could proceed with bilateral agreements with these exporting partner countries.
A strong, independent, and scientifically rigorous Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (MRV) system is central to address methane emissions. It is necessary to provide credible data, identify issues and efficient measures, and assess the progress achieved. A mandatory MRV system would also improve Member States’ reporting to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC). A robust MRV framework requires the EU to move away from voluntary approaches and adopt binding harmonised requirements.
Methane emissions are a global issue, and tackling their impact on the environment would require international cooperation, knowledge-building, and best-practices sharing. Given the fast development of monitoring and reporting technologies, the Independent Observatory could be a key institution in identifying and spreading innovations for MRV. Coal mines should also be covered by mandatory MRV for methane emissions, including abandoned mines.
We also have to support the establishment of an independent international methane emissions observatory, in partnership with the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC), and the International Energy Agency (IEA).
A strong Leak Detection and Repair (LDAR) programme is a critical element of the EU’s strategy to reduce methane emissions and achieve the EU climate and environment goals. The scope should cover the full supply chain of fossil gas, oil, and coal, and include biogas and biomethane to ensure that all methane leaks from the energy sector are covered. It should be flexible enough to quickly adapt and capitalise on the upcoming innovative technologies expected to deliver environmental benefits and cost reduction, such as alternatives technologies sensing methane to be mounted on mobile platforms like trucks, drones, and planes.
In the agricultural sector, we should encourage innovation, and incentivise our industries to adopt the best practices and available technologies. We must ensure that proven, cost-efficient innovations are quickly implemented in the EU and integrated into EU agricultural policies. We must be particularly ambitious in the agriculture sector, in parallel with the Common Agricultural Policy.
By the end of 2021, the EU should – in cooperation with sectoral experts and the Member States – develop an inventory of best practices and available technologies to explore and promote the wider uptake of innovative, mitigating actions. These actions should have a special focus on methane coming from enteric fermentation. In this regard, we have to establish a framework which incentivises and rewards farmers, along with the entire value chain and especially frontrunners, for their efforts.
In the waste sector, the EU should continue to tackle unlawful practices and provide technical assistance to Member States and regions in order to increase the implementation of the existing legislation.We should also help the Member States and regions stabilise biodegradable waste prior to disposal and increase its use to produce climate-neutral, circular, and bio-based materials and chemicals, and divert this waste towards biogas production.
In the review of the Landfill Directive in 2024, the EU should consider further action to improve landfill gas management, minimise its harmful climate effects, and harness any of its potential energy gains. Closure and after-care procedures of landfill cells are key to reducing leakages, taking into account the entire life cycle of landfills. We must provide specific incentives, suited to each Member State’s conditions, to ensure separate collection of bio-waste to the maximum possible extent, including by encouraging public-private sector cooperation.
The immediate implementation of methane reduction measures on human sources of methane could reduce methane emissions by as much as 45% by 2030. Reducing methane now will avoid nearly 0.3 C of warming by 2045. That would vastly reduce the formation of and exposure to ground-level ozone. Most importantly, according to the global methane assessment report, each year after 2040, this would prevent globally:
– 255 000 premature deaths;
– 775 000 asthma-related hospital visits;
– 26 million tonnes of crop losses globally; and
– 73 billion hours of lost labour from extreme heat.
It is time to act now!
Maria Spyraki is an MEP (EPP – ND Greece) – Rapporteur of the EU Strategy to reduce methane emissions.Maria Spyraki Climate Change Energy
Reducing Methane Emissions – Time to Act Now
02 Jul 2021
As the loss of sea ice accelerates throughout the Arctic, as a direct result of the global climate emergency, so too does the opportunity for harnessing its potential. Although its fluctuation is well documented, each decade the ice further recedes by an average of 13.1%, making its riches increasingly accessible.
According to estimates, the Arctic Circle is home to roughly 90 billion barrels of untapped oil – an enormous 13% of Earth’s total reserves – and roughly one quarter of global gas reserves, in addition to vast deposits of minerals. So far, extraction has transpired only on land, due to obvious logistical obstacles and associated high costs. But the push for offshore development is accelerating, effectively firing a proverbial starting pistol for Arctic nations to mark their territory.
Comprised of eight states (Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, the United States via Alaska, Canada, Denmark via Greenland, and Iceland), the race for geopolitical dominance in the Arctic region is being driven predominantly by one country, Russia. Although territorial disputes among the five coastal nations (Norway, Denmark, the US, Canada and Russia) are largely settled by UNCLOS or ad hoc via other fora, Russia has been fast-tracking its Arctic agenda as of late, framing the Northern arena as one of its primary great-power ambitions.
In contrast, however, the EU appears to be struggling to find its footing. Since its 2016 Joint Communication laying out its Arctic policy, notwithstanding a few sporadic declarations, it has paid insufficient attention to the region and its fast-paced developments. Although the Commission is scheduled to deliver an updated policy later this year, questions loom as to how assertive and tangible its objectives will be.
In line with the very real challenges posed by developments in the region, the EU’s updated Arctic policy needs to avoid the typical EU folly of being as convoluted as the challenges themselves.
Meanwhile, as the EU remains in the planning phase, Russia is constructing and refitting military bases at an alarming rate, developing new high-tech weapons (like the Tsirkon hypersonic anti-ship cruise missile) and holding regular drills in the region to strengthen its grip. Satellite images over the past five years confirm this steady build-up along its Arctic coastline. This includes new facilities on the Kola Peninsula, air bases on the islands of Novaya Zemlya, Alexandra Land and Kotelny, each equipped with their own array of bombers and/or fighter jets, as well as new radar systems and quick-reaction forces off the Alaskan coast.
Experts have expressed particular concern about one Russian development, the Poseidon 2M39 torpedo, believed to be stored at its Kola site as it awaits further testing and deployment in the region. This new super-weapon is no joke, having the potential to sneak past the most advanced radar systems and launch “radioactive tsunamis” of contaminated water that could devastate large coastal cities and their surrounding environment for decades.
For Russia, the Arctic has always been of strategic importance. Hydrocarbon Arctic resources have played an essential economic role since the fall of the Soviet Union. As such, Russia’s heavy-handed Arctic strategy is keeping it afloat not only economically and thus facilitating Vladimir Putin’s stranglehold over the country, but it has helped preserve Russia’s position as a major player on the world stage for decades.
Another integral component of the Arctic puzzle is the potential for new global shipping lanes, namely Russia’s fabled Northern Sea Route, which has the potential to circumvent the Suez canal and cut shipping times from Asia to Europe by 10-32%. Although serious doubts have been raised about its viability, due predominately to high costs associated with climactic obstacles, it is rather a matter of when these routes will become viable, not if, giving Russia a monopoly on the management of a significant proportion of global shipping.
The exact cause of Russia’s recent sabre-rattling in the Arctic is debatable. Flexing its might in the region has, since the Cold War, been a key component of its nuclear deterrence strategy. It could therefore be an effort to further buttress its Northern Fleet, both conventional and nuclear. Its accelerated testing of its super-weapons in the region this year could be part of a larger Kremlin strategy to test the Biden administration, bolstering support for Putin as he grapples with domestic unrest. Conversely, the multifaceted build-up could simply be an attempt to stake its claim ever-closer to the North Pole and its many opportunities, coinciding with the melting ice. Ultimately, its rationale is likely a combination of some or all of the above-mentioned factors.
In line with the very real challenges posed by developments in the region, the EU’s updated Arctic policy needs to avoid the typical EU folly of being as convoluted as the challenges themselves. It needs to be direct, action-oriented and account for each of the developing challenges, from environmental and economic to addressing the Arctic ambitions of Russia and even China, who in 2018 announced itself to be a “near-Arctic state” and “an important stakeholder in Arctic affairs.” The EU must additionally consolidate its revised Arctic policy with pre-existing agreements, like the Green Deal and EU defence initiatives. It should also lay out how it intends to work with its three Arctic member states (plus Norway and Iceland) to pursue mutually inclusive objectives.
Importantly, the Commission should dedicate part of its Arctic policy to strengthening multilateral co-operation with its allies for security and strategic deterrence against Russia, balancing resolve and restraint, through NATO but also on a bilateral basis with other Arctic states, especially the US. Both could serve as a much needed stepping stone to reinforcing the strained transatlantic relationship and show Russia that it’s not the only player in the region.
After all, this so-called “geopolitical” Commission needs to assert itself and, in practical terms, lay out the roadmap for becoming a legitimate Arctic player. Otherwise, the EU risks letting another significant international event play out while it watches helplessly from the sidelines.Gavin Synnott Energy EU-Russia Trade
Walking on Thin Ice: The EU Must Define its Arctic Strategy or Risk Getting Left Out in the Cold
20 Apr 2021
Unresolved problems continue to haunt you no matter how hard you try to ignore them. Germany is painfully reminded of this after yet another turn in the never-ending Nord Stream 2 saga. The horrid poisoning of Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny has put pressure on the German government (both at home and internationally) to rethink its commitment to the pipeline project, should the Kremlin refuse to cooperate in the investigation. There is little chance for Berlin to unilaterally cancel such a large infrastructure project, which is nearing completion. Any diplomatic hints that it might do so may be a well-calibrated attempt to test Vladimir Putin’s resolve. However, one thing is certain – the latest developments have shown again that the Gazprom-led pipeline is nothing more than a political project with grave implications for Europe’s energy security and uncertain economic gains.
For several years, the construction of Nord Stream 2 (NS 2) irked different European capitals and put a strain on Washington and Berlin’s relationship. The project is planned to double the volume of the existing Nord Stream 1 pipeline, with the total volume of both ventures being a maximum of 110 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year. Gazprom has pledged to guarantee 50% of the project funding and will be the sole shareholder in the project, which is backed by five other European companies. Although technically a private corporation, Gazprom remains owned by the Russian government and is used as an important tool in advancing the Kremlin’s economic and geopolitical interests outside Russia’s borders. The new extension of the pipeline will fortify the Russian Federation as the EU’s top supplier of natural gas – a position Moscow has exploited in the past through unfair price setting and partitioning gas markets in Central, Eastern, and Baltic EU member states. Regrettably, if the pipeline becomes operational, it will go against one of the European Energy Union’s main objectives – diversification of energy suppliers and reduced dependence on only a handful of third-country exporters.
Several European leaders have already objected to the project and its destabilising geopolitical consequences for energy security in Central and Eastern Europe, as well as its clear attempt to circumvent Ukraine as a transit country for natural gas to Europe. A recent European Parliament resolution, adopted with an overwhelming majority, called for the official halt of the project. There is little rationale for such costly infrastructure, given that it will not transport new volumes of gas, but will instead redistribute existing quantities flowing through Ukraine. The European Union has an abundance of existing gas infrastructure and has pledged to reduce fossil fuel dependence in the coming decades. There is a real possibility that NS 2 would become a stranded asset buried below the Baltic Sea in the near future.
For the time being, Gazprom looks set to complete the project, albeit with a significant delay due to regulatory hurdles and changes in the applicable European legislation. Irrespective of Russia’s military aggression in Crimea, foreign interference in elections, and energy blackmail of smaller EU-member states, it seems as if it will be business as usual for Germany when it comes to pipelines. There are at least two main reasons for Berlin’s dogged determination to see the project completed. First, Germany’s pledge to phase out nuclear energy by 2022 and reduce its reliance on coal means that households and industry will register a growing demand for natural gas as a transitionary resource throughout the 2020s. Second, the country is still path dependent on the dubious legacy of the German Social Democratic Party (SPD), and its steadfast belief in a ‘modernisation partnership’, meaning a warmer attitude towards Russia. Prominent political figures from the SPD in the last two decades have committed Germany to the whole Nord Stream energy venture, regardless of the split it causes between Eastern and Western EU member states, and also the betrayal towards Ukraine.
One of the few plausible scenarios for preventing the completion of the pipeline would be additional pressure from the US – more expansive sanctions from the US State Department might prove painful for current and future investors. Even if the President changes after the November elections, the White House will likely keep its determination to prevent further tightening of Gazprom’s energy grip on Europe.
It is most likely that Germany will not unilaterally cancel the completion of Nord Stream 2 in the upcoming months. The path dependency of Berlin’s energy policy requires that the country remain committed to the pipeline, even at the cost of going against the interests of many European member states and the European Energy Union’s overarching goals. Only an external occurrence can tip the scale against NS 2 – strengthened political and economic pressure from Washington, or an extreme deterioration of EU-Russia relations in the next several months. It is more likely that the wedlock between Berlin and Gazprom will be reaffirmed, and the promise for Europe to speak with one voice on its energy policy will remain nothing more than a pipe dream.Dimitar Lilkov Energy EU-Russia Renewable Energy
Nord Stream 2: Business as Usual at Europe’s Expense
06 Oct 2020
During the last decade of perma-crisis in Europe, we started to believe in our own impending demise. Suddenly there was money for nothing, China was chomping at our heels and our demographics were catastrophic. All that was left was a long, slow inevitable decline into global insignificance. Fast forward to 2019 and a similar vista appears, this time with the added bonus of catastrophic climate change. Now Europe teeters on the brink of another economic downturn.
These challenges, while serious and real, can be addressed by a long-term policy reorientation. But to adequately respond to the issue of climate change and to effectively project European interests on a global stage Europe must combat the one issue which is its biggest impediment. Europe needs to remember that thinking big isn’t a crime. Europe needs to understand that investing for the long term is a vital part of economic planning.
Take the environment. The airline industry is one of the largest sources of global Co2 emissions. Yet, notwithstanding the relative proximity of many of Europe’s main urban centres, high-speed rail in Europe remains “an ineffective patchwork of lines without a realistic long-term plan”. EU funding of 23.7 billion euro in co-funding for high-speed lines since 2000 is minuscule when compared to support levels for other transport modes. At a European level, the overall picture remains one of isolated national systems and incomplete domestic programmes.
Yet, the environmental benefits of high-speed rail are obvious. The development of high-speed networks in France, and more recently in Italy and Spain, have significantly reduced domestic air travel and resulted in reliable transport links between many major cities. Cross-border services – most notably the Eurostar connecting London to Paris/Brussels and Thalys linking Paris to Amsterdam (via Brussels) have become important transport arteries.
So why then the implied reluctance – at both a national and European level – to place high-speed rail at the centre of the EU response to fighting climate change? One reason is the economics of high-speed rail. Such developments are, by their very nature, expensive to construct, the time taken for such lines to become operational can be substantial (often a decade or more) and during this time they are constantly being subjected to negative media and economic analyses.
China built a comprehensive high-speed rail network in little more than a decade.
Consider both the proposed Lyon-Turin and London-Birmingham (HS2) rail links. The considerable opprobrium heaped on these projects relates mostly to cost. Unrealistic initial budgets (often required to gain political support for commencement) are used by opponents as an economic basis for seeking to halt the project. But cost-benefit analyses are, by their very nature, only based on a set of quantitative assumptions regarding issues such as construction costs and passenger numbers.
The traditional economic analysis ignores wider societal and environmental benefits. In addition, both of these projects also seek to achieve important strategic economic objectives in terms of improving cross border mobility (Lyon-Turin) and tacking increasing regional inequalities (London-Birmingham).
Often expensive (and they are very expensive) high-speed rail projects find it difficult to attract consistent political support. Welded to an election cycle governments find it difficult to coherently develop plans for high-speed rail lines that may take decades to become fully operational. This equates, in many politicians eyes, to decades of considerable government spending without any discernible impact on their re-election prospects.
China built a comprehensive high-speed rail network in little more than a decade. In Europe, proposals for new, or even for upgraded lines, can languish for decades in planning hell.
To counter this reality, the EU should be the perfect mechanism for ensuring consistent financial support for these long term investment projects. The EU should significantly increase co-funding for an earmarked list of strategic priority projects. For example, the approximate 500km distance between Berlin and Munich still takes a minimum of 4 hours to complete by rail.
Likewise, the 400km trip between Brussels and Frankfurt requires a journey time in excess of 3 hours. These train journey times are not sufficient to alter many passengers travel habits regarding short-hop airline flights. Up to 8-10 flights still leave Brussels for Frankfurt (and vice versa) on a daily basis.
Given the current climate crisis, and Europe’s wish to lead the response, this situation is clearly unsustainable. Tackling climate change is a very expensive business. Europe needs to hop aboard this high-speed train before it leaves the station.Eoin Drea Economy Energy EU Member States Industry Sustainability
To tackle climate change Europe needs to embrace high-speed rail
02 Sep 2019
After a prolonged political and legal skirmish, EU officials finally reached an informal compromise last week on the reform of the Union`s Gas Directive. Hailed as an important achievement, the compromise mostly aimed to rein in the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and ensure that the EU keeps Gazprom in check when it comes to gas supply and competition rules.
Who Calls the Shots
These changes were hastily proposed in 2017 by the European Commission in the desperate attempt to get some say over the construction of the Nord Stream 2 project which would substantially boost the direct gas flow between Russia and Germany. The construction of the pipeline has been the Apple of Discord between Germany and many Central European and Baltic countries. Berlin has faced growing criticism for allowing a pipeline project which will further increase Russia`s energy dominance and directly endangers the energy security of CEE countries.
The amendment of the Gas Directive didn`t intend to cancel Nord Stream 2 altogether but to make sure that the Gazprom-led project would comply with European energy legislation for ownership unbundling, third-party access and non-discrimination in tariff setting. Compliance with these provisions would require Gazprom to adapt their approach and be bound by a new set of rules which may hurt their business model.
The adopted compromise (text still not officially voted) make such rules applicable to new pipelines, but also grants the member state which is the first point of entry of the pipeline the right to ask for an exemption of these rules. This places Germany in a favourable position to push for such an exemption and ensure not only that the project goes through but that it also secures a lax regulatory treatment. Even though the Commission is the one which gives the final decision, it is unlikely that the freshly sworn-in EU executive will confront Merkel head on in late 2019.
The seemingly successful compromise on the Gas Directive manages to brush aside the most relevant question – why is Nord Stream 2 allowed to be constructed in the first place? This project has little rationale as it will not bring new gas to Europe but mostly redirect the current supply transmitted through Ukraine. The ultimate aim of Moscow is to completely circumvent Ukraine and redirect most of the energy resource directly through the Baltic sea.
Germany is going ahead with the construction of a project which has been condemned by several heads of state and the majority of the European Parliament as going against Europe`s interest. Moreover, Berlin is opening an additional avenue for further systemic corruption and political influence for Gazprom which is a direct conduit of the interests of the Kremlin.
For Angela Merkel, the current developments under the umbrella of a ‘European solution’ to Nord Stream 2 bring a sigh of relief. For several years she has been locked in this project mostly due to pressures from her coalition partner the Social Democratic Party (SPD). The infamous legacy of Gerhard Schröder and Sigmar Gabriel has committed Germany to this pipeline, regardless of the split it causes between Eastern and Western EU member states and also the betrayal towards Ukraine.
Irrespective of Russia`s military aggression, foreign interference in elections and energy blackmail of smaller EU-member states, for Germany it seems as if it will be business as usual when it comes to pipelines.
A Humiliation for Europe
Ensuring the diversification of energy supply and speaking with one voice on energy affairs have been top priorities for the European Commission and the still incomplete EU Energy Union. Regardless, the institution has struggled to play any meaningful role with respect to Nord Stream 2. The Commission even found itself in the embarrassing position of reminding journalists that the amendment of the Gas Directive was her proposal and not only the product of a Franco-German compromise.
The only upside is that this situation might potentially give the EU additional leverage in brokering a parallel favourable deal for Ukraine in her attempt to continue to provide a transit route to several CEE member states. The revision of the Gas Directive might improve the chances of incorporating the interests of Kiev in securing future transit fees from Russia and keep Ukraine`s infrastructure operational to some extent. All in exchange for an exemption on Nord Stream 2, of course.
And here lies the biggest problem. Instead of preventing the construction of the pipeline altogether, the member states have just managed to produce a lowest common denominator solution. Germany will get its cheap gas and even try to save face by promoting the importance of the achieved Franco-German compromise under European rules. In reality, this compromise is nothing more than a fig leaf for Germany.Dimitar Lilkov Energy EU Member States EU-Russia
Nord Stream 2: a pyrrhic victory for Germany
19 Feb 2019
The Nord Stream 2 project aims to double the capacity Russia currently possesses for delivering natural gas directly to Germany through the Baltic Sea. This paper provides an overview of the current developments surrounding the project and of opposition to the pipeline by the European Commission and a growing number of EU member states. It goes on to analyse the risks involved in the new gas infrastructure and argues that Nord Stream 2 would be detrimental to the energy security of a number of Central and Eastern European member states and of Ukraine.
The paper contends that while the pipeline offers uncertain economic gains, it would dangerously weaken the EU’s strategic goals in Eastern Europe, disrupt the European Energy Security Strategy and damage member state unity. Ultimately, the new German government should recognise this and take the necessary measures to stop Nord Stream 2.Energy EU-Russia Neighbourhood Policy Sustainability
European Energy Security: The Case Against Nord Stream 2
13 Apr 2018
For Russia, business and state are indistinguishable. This was just one of the main takeaways of the event “Understanding Kremlin’s influence in Central and Eastern Europe”, co-organised by the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies and the Center for the Study of Democracy (CSD) on Thursday, 1 December 2016 in Brussels.
The event started off by presenting the main findings of The Kremlin Playbook: Understanding Russian Influence in Central and Eastern Europe, a CSD report in cooperation with the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Washington DC-based think tank. With ample qualitative and quantitative data, the study reveals the exact nature of Russia’s economic footprint in the domestic economies of Central and Eastern European countries, as well as its amplifiers.
“When think tanks produce publications like these, critical of Putin’s Russia, the Kremlin sees this as an existential threat”, mentioned Tomi Huhtanen, Executive Director of the Martens Centre, in his introductory remarks. Member of the European Parliament Paul Rübig, who sits with the centre-right EPP Group and is the longest-serving MEP from Austria acknowledged the importance of think tanks working together to counter Russian influence, as well as in the battle for facts in the media.
Ruslan Stefanov, CSD’s Economic Programme Director and The Kremlin’s Playbook project director underlined that no Russian oligarch is in a position to refuse Kremlin’s insistence and efforts to expand Russia’s economic influence, and that CEE countries are prime real estate for this influence.
Martin Vladimirov, another expert author of the Kremlin Playbook study emphasised that for Moscow the energy dependence of CEE is almost an issue of national strategic interest and gave the example of Gazprom which has been able to exploit economic governance deficiencies in the region to its advantage.
“No Russian oligarch will refuse Kremlin insistence to expand Russia’s economic influence.” Ruslan Stefanov, Kremlin Playbook author
But what makes the CEE countries so vulnerable to Russia’s attempts of political patronage? Is it capitalism, EU disillusionment or communism nostalgia? There was a deeply held assumption that, when they joined NATO and the EU in 2004, these countries would continue their positive democratic and economic transformation.
Yet more than a decade later, the region experiences a decline in democratic standards and governance practices at the same time that Russia’s economic grip of the region is strengthening. According to Vít Novotný, researcher with the Martens Centre, these countries have been more focused on the anti-communist rhetoric and dealing with their communist past, rather than improving governance and transparency.
With older generations slipping into old mind frames, Veronika Víchová, analyst of the Kremlin Watch Programme of European Values, a Prague-based think tank, highlighted the importance of counteracting the sophisticated disinformation strategy of the Kremlin. She maintained that cooperation among different states is key for countering Russian influence, and both NATO and the EU will need to diversify and cooperate more to address Russian soft power, including misinformation, disruption and even cyber-attacks.
Source: The Kremlin Playbook: Understanding Russian Influence in Central and Eastern EuropeEconomy Energy EU Member States
CEE and Russia: when economic dependence translates into political influence
02 Dec 2016
Security of energy supply is one of the three main objectives of the EU energy policy, on a par with competitiveness and environmental protection. However, prominence of the energy security as a policy area rose with the 2009 gas crisis and the 2014 conflict in Eastern Ukraine, prompting the EU to adopt Energy Security Strategy.
According to the strategy, EU countries should strengthen their ability to face possible supply disruption and improve coordination of their respective emergency and solidarity mechanisms. They should further reduce their dependency on particular fuels, energy suppliers and import routes and increase domestic energy production, while taking demand moderating measures.
All these goals have been long on the policy agenda of the V4 countries. After the exposure to gas crisis in 2009, considerable improvements in terms of route diversification have been made. However, there are new challenges, mainly stemming from geopolitical situation and possible new gas infrastructure that could disrupt the ongoing integration into a bigger regional gas market. V4 power sector has been long viewed as relatively unproblematic compared to gas sector but new and very serious challenges are arising with adoption of ambitious environmental policies and growing RES volumes.
This paper provides a brief overview of the main challenges and areas we view as problematic or particularly important. It is a subjective selection, covering only power and gas sector issues. To make the paper concise and relevant, we chose not to touch upon other important energy security related issues linked to oil, coal or nuclear fuel. Also, to put the discussion below into a context, we provide some key statistics for gas and power sector in V4 countries but we do this in the annex to save some space and maintain the focus.
The second part of the paper contains recommendations that would help policy-makers address the current challenges and strengthen the energy security in the Visegrad region and the EU as a whole.Energy EU Member States Resources Security
V4 – Energy Security and Regional Markets: Challenges Ahead
20 Dec 2015
“We have stabilized the Euro and carried out reforms. Now we need to focus on innovation for growth and the digital economy.”
These are the words used by Manfred Weber, leader of the European People’s Party (EPP) Group in the European Parliament during his opening of the Economic Ideas Forum that was held in Brussels on December 2nd 2015.
The Economic Ideas Forum (EIF) is an annual high-level conference that brings together economic experts, decision makers and business leaders to discuss and consider innovative ideas and solutions to the economic challenges facing the EU today. The Forum has so far been a roadshow affair, with previous editions successfully held in Bratislava, Helsinki, Dublin, London and Madrid. Organized by the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies, the official think tank of the EPP, the EIF’s aim is to act as a laboratory for policy-oriented ideas.
Here are the seven key takeaways from the one day discussions:
- Digital Single Market (DSM): You snooze, you lose
The Commission’s plans for a Digital Single Market featured prominently in the discussion and all speakers agreed that their successful implementation could be agame-changer for the future of the digital economy in Europe. According to one speaker, some EU member states still need to wake up from their “digital snooze”, otherwise the EU will continue to lag behind in digital innovation, most notably in comparison with the US. One big market, rather than 28 different ones will make Europe an investment and digital-friendly continent.
- Industry 4.0: Embrace, don’t erase
As the birthplace of the industrial revolution, Europe has long relied on its industrial eco-system as a core economic strength. But the relative contribution of industry to the EU economy is declining. In response, we need to activate a new industrial revolution: we need to transform industrial production through the merging of digital technology, the internet and conventional industry.
In an era where users take the driving seat, and the economy becomes an “on demand” one, including the personalization and digitalization of products, the EU needs to provide a co-ordinated response on how to embed innovation at the core of Europe’s industrial sector.
- Collaborative economy: Disrupt yourself
Revolutionising our economies and work habits, that’s no modest ambition set out by the new, dynamic players that are part of the so-called collaborative economy. How about the more traditional players that are challenged in the process? They can use this as an opportunity to disrupt their own business models by adapting and borrowing practices from the newer players. This will lead to growth, lower prices for the consumer and increased efficiency in the utilization of resources.
- It’s the (data-driven) economy, stupid!
All the digital innovations discussed raised complex issues of data treatment, storage and protection. There was a general agreement that a balanced deal on data protection is a necessary prerequisite for the digital economy to fully accelerate in Europe. On the issues of data flows and “safe harbor” the temptation to build walls around Europe should be avoided.
- Energy Union: Don’t rush to Russia
In the energy field, speakers agreed that the objectives are security of supply, climate protection and the reduction of energy costs. The EU has gone a long way towards having a common policy to achieve these goals, but further steps will still be needed. Tackling the overreliance of some EU countries on external supply (i.e. Russian gas) can be achieved through a better connected European energy market, a stronger energy union and intelligent diversification.
As for the latter, agreement on the importance and role of renewable energy sources was mixed with an acknowledgement that other complementary solutions should also be considered, including nuclear power.
- COP21: Leader, not lonely front-runner
With the EIF taking place just before the Climate Change Summit, the timing was right to underline that what was at stake in Paris was the future of Europe as a leader in clean energy. If an agreement was not reached, Europe could turn into a “lonely front-runner”, shouldering a disproportionate part of the burden in fighting climate change and losing its competitiveness to countries with laxer standards.
- Ukraine: Remain Calm – now reform and support
The need for diverse and comprehensive reforms in Ukraine was best summarized by a speaker that urged for a “Maidan in government structures”, as well as de-regulation, privatization and an independent judiciary. In this, Ukraine should value the experiences of centre-right reformers from Central and Eastern Europe during the 1990s. In turn, Europe needs to avoid that Ukraine falls off the EU agenda and offer concrete rewards to encourage the reform process in the country, such as the concrete prospect of visa liberalization.
Closing the event, Martens Centre Executive Director Tomi Huhtanen told the audience how, in previous years, “financial crisis” and “economic recovery” were the topics dominating the EIF discussions. This time around, new buzzwords such as “collaborative economy”, “industry 4.0” and “data-driven economy” took over the conversation.
In a world where change seems to happen at an exponentially growing pace, 2016 is no doubt going to bring new, disruptive trends for the European economy. The Martens Centre will be there to discuss them as they happen, with a continued appetite for new ideas and concrete policy recommendations.Economy Energy Growth Innovation Trade
Economic Ideas Forum, inspiring ideas into policy action: 7 key takeaways
10 Dec 2015
The American energy revolution has radically transformed the US energy landscape in less than a decade. Surging energy production is increasing US energy self-sufficiency, the holy grail of American energy policy for over 40 years. The US economy appears to be the biggest winner in the new energy reality. The surge in US competitiveness presents an almost insurmountable challenge for important parts of European industry.
Yet, is the US, in the wake of diminishing reliance on foreign oil, redefining its role in the oil-rich and conflict-ridden Middle East, causing a US foreign policy revolution in the region? And is Europe on the winning or losing side of this new Middle Eastern reality?
In this article I describe the American energy revolution and argue that, despite growing energy self-sufficiency, the US will remain deeply integrated in the global energy markets. The American energy bonanza will thus continue to have a significant, though not revolutionary effect on the global energy landscape.
I also argue that, despite the official US rhetoric, the American energy revolution is causing a somewhat revolutionary shift in the US’s Middle Eastern policy. The US’s diminishing energy imports seem to be contributing to a less engaging role for the country in the region.
The lack of determined American leadership to end the conflicts in Syria and Iraq is also resulting in the European refugee crisis. Without decisive action, the EU is likely to stay on the losing side of the American energy revolution on the Middle Eastern and economic front, at least compared to the US.
Read the full FREE article published in the December 2015 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.Mark Boris Andrijanič Energy Middle East Resources
Mark Boris Andrijanič
The American energy revolution: challenging Europe and the Middle East
07 Dec 2015
The Ukraine crisis has reignited debate in Europe surrounding the EU’s lack of a fully functioning single energy market. It has brought home to all member states the general need for a more coordinated energy policy, even though they may differ on aspects of what needs to be done. This research highlights that integration of the internal single energy market should still be the EU’s main instrument to reach its three goals of cost competitiveness, security and emission reduction.
A roadmap for completing the single energy market is proposed based on a harmonised EU-wide system of renewable energy subsidies and significant infrastructure investment in many Central and East European member states. These smart investments would form part of a coherent, long-term investment plan for the European energy sector and would enable these member states to improve their energy security through greater investment in gas storage and interconnectors.
The goals of energy security, affordability and sustainability have never been higher on the EU’s agenda. All three goals would be served if Europe truly unified its energy market. National leaders have it in their hands to complete this slow and difficult integration process, if they can just summon up the necessary political will to do so.Energy Renewable Energy Resources Security Sustainability
Refuelling Europe: A Roadmap for completing the Single Energy Market
22 Dec 2014
President Putin’s decision to cancel work on the South Stream pipeline may have far-reaching consequences regarding the development of a single energy market within the EU. Although Commission President Juncker (and Bulgarian Prime Minister Borissov) have publicly stated that South Stream remains a potentially viable project, its de facto mothballing by Russia provides the EU with an opportunity to develop alternative energy scenarios in south east Europe.
These are scenarios which would improve both the diversity and security of the EU’s energy supply. This IN FOCUS sets out five key reasons why the end of the South Stream pipeline should mark the beginning of moves towards an European energy union.
IN FOCUS is a new series of commentaries in which the Martens Centre looks closely at current policy topics, dissects the available evidence and challenges prevailing opinions.Energy EU Member States EU-Russia Renewable Energy Resources
European Energy Union: Why the end of South Stream should mark its beginning
16 Dec 2014
Banking Economy Energy Innovation Jobs
Economic Ideas Forum 2014, Bratislava – Conference Report
01 Dec 2014
This week’s developments regarding the allegations of fraud and money laundering against Lukoil’s operations in Romania are an excellent case-study of EU politicians’ positions towards Russia. It highlights the difference between the EPP-affiliated, pro-European President Traian Basescu, and the Socialist, pro-Russian Prime Minister, Victor Ponta. We now see who walks the walk and who just talks the talk. It also shows a powerful Russian company trying to threaten and blackmail an EU member state; it just happens that in this case, the company’s position is very weak.
On 6 October 2014 Romanian prosecutors seized assets of a Lukoil refinery in Romania for allegations of fraud and money laundering amounting to 230 mil EUR. The Russian oil giant reacted by threatening to close down its operations in Romania and lay off 3500 people. Centre-left Prime Minister Ponta reacted by threatening prosecutors for jeopardizing the Romanian economy.
Centre-right President Traian Basescu explained in clear words that the Russian company has to respect Romanian laws and EU standards, if it wants to operate in Romania. He said that “Putin-style laws” do not apply in Romania; the Russian company should leave for Moscow, if it wants to operate according to “Putin-style laws”. “Leave the country, if you are not ready to obey Romanian law”, he said.
The behaviour of the Russian company and the positioning of the two Romanian leaders is highly relevant for EU’s attitude towards Russia: Traian Basescu, a second term president not seeking re-election in November’s presidential election, is known for his pro-European course and tough stance on Russia. Centre-left Prime Minister Ponta, affiliated with the European Socialists, is running in November’s Presidential elections seeking to become the country’s first Socialist President in a decade. Mr Ponta’s priority is to keep social peace ahead of the presidential elections. Any social unrest triggered by eventual lay-offs would jeopardize his campaign. Mr Ponta is ready to jeopardise the independence of the judiciary in order to keep social peace and to satisfy the interests of a Russian company suspected of having broken Romanian laws.
Lukoil painted a dark picture for its employees and for the Romanian consumers, in case it will have to close down its operations: closing down the refinery would lead to 3500 redundancies. This number is exaggerated, given that Lukoil employs only a total of 1100 people in the foreseen subsidiaries. This did not keep Prime Minister Ponta from adoptingtheir exaggerated number. Not being able to process its crude oil in the Romanian refinery would lead to fuel price increases at Lukoil’s gas stations, Lukoil claims.
Coincidence or not, on Thursday, Gazprom reduced by 15% the gas deliveries to Romania – this being just one of many similar measures taken lately. We are all familiar with Russian price blackmails, but in this case it will not work: Lukoil has a market share of just 20% on the fuel markets in Romania; this is far from a monopoly. If prices at Lukoil’s gas stations increase, every single consumer would just buy his or her fuel at any other European station across the street: An opportunity for every citizen to turn to European companies and to judge politicians on their behaviour in real crisis situations.Siegfried Mureşan Business Eastern Europe Energy EU Member States EU-Russia
Effectively Deterring Russia
10 Oct 2014
Banking Economy Energy Growth Transatlantic
Economic Ideas Forum Helsinki 2013 – Conference Report
02 Sep 2013
CES is proud to host the fourth Economic Ideas Forum, which will be held in Helsinki during the 6th and 7th of June 2013 under the Patronage of Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen. The annual conference brings together high level economic experts, Ministers of Economy, EU Commissioners, EU Prime Minister, as well as business leaders from around the world. The Forums provide an opportunity to consider innovative ideas and propose solutions to the economic challenges facing the EU economy.
This year’s Forum will once again contemplate the pressing issues on the economic agenda: the role and continued relevance of the EU in the global economy, new sources of growth, how to tackle unemployment, banking and financial regulation, green economy and sustainability. Every year, over 250 participants attend this high level, interactive conference. Confirmed speakers include Prime Minister of Latvia Valdis Dombrovskis; EU Commissioner Olli Rehn; Alexander Stubb, Minister for European Affairs and Foreign Trade of Finland; Irish Minister of European Affairs Lucinda Creighton; Erkki Liikanen, Governor of the Bank of Finland; Portuguese Minister of Finance Vitor Gaspar; and Jari Koskinen, Minister of Agriculture of Finland.
Previous Forums have been successfully held in Madrid (2010), London (2011) and Dublin (2012) and have received wide international media coverage. Please keep checking our website for more information regarding the programme, speakers and online registration.Banking Economy Energy Eurozone Growth
CES proud to host fourth Economic Ideas Forum in Helsinki under the patronage of PM Katainen
07 Feb 2013
The European Union, as an early proponent of the shift to alternative forms of energy, has taken impressive efforts in promoting green business and environmental reform. Where does the EU stand today in its transition towards a sustainable economic model built on green business? What challenges do European policymakers and business leaders face in their progression towards a truly green economy? The availability of and access to private forms of investment capital is one of the most important challenges for new green industries struggling to maintain competiveness in the face of growing global competition. Other practical challenges for businesses in the renewable sector are highlighted in the paper using the case study of Germany. The paper proposes new forms of investment, sustainable financial products, the creation of common standards, and greater transparency. This should go hand in hand with the continuation of renewable energy subsidies and the exchange of information and the promotion of skills among businesses.Energy Environment Innovation
Green Energy- Green Business: New Financial and Policy Instruments for Sustainable Growth in the EU
01 May 2012
In this paper, three long-time observers of Russia and the EU perform a reality check on the EU–Russia relationship. All three authors agree that a more realistic EU policy would deal with Russia as it is, not as the EU wants it to be. The reality of today’s Russia is complex, as is the policy formulation process in the EU. Nevertheless, the EU should start with a clearer idea of where its own interests and priorities lie. It should accept that it can achieve fruitful cooperation with Russia in some areas while openly disagreeing with it in others. The EU needs to be prepared to work with Russia as an equal partner without compromising its own norms and values.Energy EU-Russia Foreign Policy
EU-Russia Relations: Time for a realistic turnaround
01 Mar 2011
The world is rapidly moving toward increasing penetration of smaller, more local sources of energy. This paper analyses the existence and design of an optimal policy for building robust markets for distributed renewable energy solutions, specifically energy technologies that can be adopted at the point-of-use by energy users (as opposed to energy utilities) that are carbon-free and renewable. This includes the objectives of distributed renewable energy policy, how they conflict among stakeholder types, which elements have been used to stimulate market growth and which policy type can drive towards unintended and intended consequencesEnergy Environment Innovation
Accelerating the Deployment of Distributed Renewable Energy: Through Innovative Market-Driven Policy Programs
01 Jan 2009