The potential for further energy cooperation between the countries of North Africa and the EU is ‘obvious’ as the bloc seeks to diversify its sources of supply, but future energy relations between the two regions should be at company rather than state level, said Professor Jean-Marie Chevalier of Paris-Dauphine University in an interview with EURACTIV France.
Jean-Marie Chevalier is a professor at Paris-Dauphine University and a member of the French think tank ‘Cercle des économistes’.
The debate over future energy cooperation between North Africa and the Mediterranean countries of the EU has intensified as French President Nicolas Sarkozy develops his plans for a ‘Mediterranean Union’.
Describing his vision of “decentralised” energy cooperation in the Mediterranean region, Chevalier, a member of the French think tank ‘Cercle des économistes’, said cooperation between European and North African companies was “much more effective” than “plodding” state-driven bilateral or multilateral initiatives (see EURACTIV 19/12/07).
Moreover, Chevalier is “pessimistic” about the chances of successfully integrating energy policy into the Mediterranean Union, primarily due to the “lack of political agreement” or exchange between North African countries, despite the existence of the Union of the Arab Maghreb.
Meanwhile, concerns over the perceived over-dependence of EU countries on Russian, Algerian and Norwegian gas have led the bloc to seek wider diversity of supply, most notably by developing the ‘Nabucco’ pipeline project to bring gas from central Asia and the Caspian region to Western Europe, bypassing Russia (see EURACTIV 17/09/07).
Rejecting the notion that the EU is overly-dependent on Algerian gas, Chevalier prefers the term ‘interdependence’ instead, and points out that 95% of Algeria’s capital originates from income generated from oil and gas exports to other countries.
He identified renewable energy, and particularly solar and wind power, among the most “promising” areas for future cooperation given the “abundant resources” that North African countries can exploit, citing Moroccan wind farms that were established in conjunction with French and German companies as an example.
On electricity, Chevalier said the Mediterranean market was not yet fully developed and there was “significant potential for investment”, but envisaged this relationship becoming “reciprocal”, with Southern European and North African countries supplying each other “according to supply and demand”.
Asked whether he saw a role for France in setting up nuclear power stations in North Africa, he spoke of the long-term potential but recalled that discussions have been ongoing for 25 years with few concrete results.