EU deepens energy relations with Africa and Middle East

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Key energy players from the EU, Africa and the Middle East have come together for the first time to debate common challenges and policies in the field of energy security.

The Commission considered yesterday’s (1 November) Energy Conference in Sharm El Sheikh (Egypt) as an opportunity to “discuss co-operation in enhancing regional energy security, addressing climate change and improving access to energy services”. 

The participating state officials and representatives from international financial institutions and regional and international organisations discussed improving trans-regional co-operation regarding hydrocarbons and renewables, as well as finding ways to improve energy efficiency, the Commission said. 

“When the EU thinks of energy security, it looks not only east but also south. We are determined to expand our network of energy partners by building on bilateral partnerships and regional initiatives”, said Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner. 

She also praised the role of the host: “Egypt can play a key role as a bridge between our energy partners in Africa and the Middle East.” 

The Commission also signed a joint declaration with Jordan on priorities for energy co-operation. 

The meeting and the signing of the EU-Jordan agreement fit in with the EU’s goal of achieving “sustainable, competitive and secure” energy supplies for Europe by building a common external energy policy, as laid down in the Commission’s March 2006 green paper. 

Ferrero-Waldner and Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs called the deepening of energy relations between the EU and the countries in the Mediterranean region a “priority” for the EU. This declaration builds on “the strong energy co-operation that we are establishing with other partners in the region, including Egypt, Algeria and Morocco”, Ferrero-Waldner added. 

Bearing in mind the region’s vast oil and gas resources, as well as the fact that the Middle East and North African countries hold a major share of the world’s hydrocarbon, the International Energy Agency (IEA) predicted that “the region will continue to play a strategic role” in supplying the world with energy. 

The results of the conference will be taken into consideration by the EU-Africa Energy Partnership, set to be launched on the occasion of the EU-Africa summit in Lisbon in December 2007. 

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