EU seeks to tap Africa’s potential as secure energy supplier

The Commission moves to strengthen energy ties with Mediterranean neighbours as Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs pays a visit to Algeria.

Andris Piebalgs’s visit to Algeria on 26 November highlighted the energy potential of Europe’s southern neighbours. This issue was also the subject for debate at a EuroMed meeting on 28 November.

The EU’s renewed focus on Africa comes in the wake of failure to reach agreement with Russia on 24 November over a new Co-operation and Partnership Agreement that would formalise energy relations (EURACTIV 27/11/06).

In Algeria, Piebalgs outlined plans for an EU-Algeria strategic energy partnership based on:

  • Regulatory convergence of Algerian and EU energy policies;
  • the development of energy infrastructures of common interest, and;
  • technology co-operation and exchange of expertise.

The EU is also considering the feasibility of constructing the so-called trans-Saharan pipeline, a project that would allow Europe to import Nigerian gas via Algeria. However, analysts warn that investment will be dependent on EU long-term contracts to buy the gas.

Meanwhile, Commissioner for External Relations, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, speaking at the EuroMed meeting, said that energy would be a priority area for a renewed focus on the Neighbourhood Policy.

Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs outlined the important role Algeria has played as a reliable supplier of energy and the need "for investments in this country over the coming years for improving hydrocarbons production and export capacities and upgrading energy transport infrastructure". 

He also confirmed EU interest in the trans-Saharan pipeline, saying "It’s a big project and we have a lot of interest in it, not only for security of supply but also for the development of Africa."

As regards the Neighbourhood Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner said that "the EU 'offer' to its partners should be increased", by co-operating more in areas such as energy and trade.

The EU presently imports almost 15% of its oil and gas from Africa and it is believed that this figure could be substantially increased by investing more in infrastructure such as off-shore pipelines to Spain and Italy. Algeria is currently the third largest exporter of gas to the EU behind Russia and Norway.

Piebalgs will travel to Astana, Kazakhstan on 30 November to attend a meeting between the EU and the countries of the Black and Caspian Seas' regions; an "Energy Road Map" will be introduced.

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