Energy solidarity ‘still just words’, says IEA chief

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Several EU governments did not show solidarity over the recent gas crisis, former executive director of the International Energy Agency Claude Mandil told EURACTIV in an interview.

This lack of solidarity is due to “a lack of political will” in some EU member states to address Europe’s energy security, Mandil claimed. 

For instance, the Italian government has issued a decree “saying that any operator supplying gas in Italy has to divert all its imports” to support the country. This is “a total shame,” said Mandil, because it indicates that Italy “doesn’t care for a second about the global supply of Europe”. 

The absence of European solidarity is also “exacerbated” by other factors, such as the lack of investment in “compressors to move gas eastwards and westwards,” across the continent, the expert told EURACTIV. 

Furthermore, “a lot has to be done to increase LNG terminals to increase energy efficiency and to go more nuclear,” Mandil claimed. 

As for signs from Slovakia and Bulgaria that they intend to restart their nuclear reactors (EURACTIV 12/01/09), the expert said they are just a “knee-jerk reaction under heavy political pressure” from the gas crisis. The countries committed themselves not to keep the reactors open as a condition of their accession to the EU and there is “no way” of changing this, Mandil said. 

Instead, “we should express real solidarity with those countries,” he argued. 

Without going as far as saying that nuclear energy will become a more popular option following the gas crisis, Mandil admitted that “more and more countries, and more parts of public opinion, realise that in the long-term, [nuclear energy] is a competitive way of producing electricity without emitting CO2”. 

The IEA expert also expressed his doubts about the Nabucco pipeline project, fearing that there is “not enough gas to fill [it], as we do not get gas from Iran”. 

Turkey’s gas needs are “enormous,” Mandil added, expressing scepticism as to whether Turkey would be “prepared to play the game of the fair transit country”. 

Recently, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said “Turkey might be forced to rethink its support for the strategic Nabucco gas pipeline if the EU refuses to unfreeze accession talks on important negotiating chapters such as energy” (EURACTIV 20/01/09).

To read the interview in full, please click here.

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