Brussels, 17 March 2016
Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests,
I'm delighted to be here to open your discussions on cooperation on energy between the European Union and partners from the Eastern Partnership and Central Asia.
Today we are celebrating a successful strategic partnership in the energy field. The INOGATE programme has brought an impressive twenty years of regional cooperation between the European Union and eleven Partners in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia.
BUT as challenges change – and, I have to say – increase, this is also a good opportunity to discuss ideas for the next stage of our co-operation.
INOGATE has brought a number of important achievements, which we now have to build on.
First, on energy security. INOGATE has worked to cut demand and reduce energy dependence. In Central Asia alone, it delivered savings of 15 billion cubic metres of gas (worth some 3 billion EUR).
Second, in promoting efficient energy markets, INOGATE has responded to the demand for modern and cost-effective practices in particular on pricing.
Third, the programme has clearly identified the need for design of effective evidence-based policies to help attract investment, notably through the in-depth review of energy sectors which was carried out with the help of the International Energy Agency.
Twenty years ago we embarked on a new energy co-operation with eastern partners, understanding that this was an important element in a range of new political partnerships. But we did not grasp as clearly as today, the role this sector might play in the stability of our regions and of the nature of relations between us.
Today we see only too clearly the link between energy sovereignty and a country's ability to choose its own path. The need to reduce dependence on any single supplier, and to diversify the energy mix so as to increase a country's resilience to unforeseen shocks, is now widely accepted.
And, for me, this resilience – energy independence if you like – is a key to the stabilisation of the European Union's Neighbourhood. In the recent review of Neighbourhood Policy we have made stabilisation the key goal for the next few years, and energy co operation must play its part in this.
Energy is key to stabilisation not only because supplies can be cut or redirected to the benefit of one partner and to the detriment of another.
Energy is fundamental to economic development, to the competitiveness of our businesses, but also to social development and the quality of the daily lives of citizens.
The energy security of the European Union is a key political priority of the Juncker Commission embedded in the Energy Union political agenda. And just as we see these questions as crucial for ourselves, so we consider them to be essential also for our close partners. This is why we invest in energy security. The money, the effort, the expertise we share – are investments in the potential and future stability of the regions around us.
EU support for investments and future cooperation
Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me say a few words about our support for investments in the energy sector in the neighbourhood.
First infrastructure. The EU does not seek to replace the private sector in financing energy infrastructure projects. BUT, where we consider there are important developments that cannot be achieved without our support, we have instruments that allow us to step in. The Neighbourhood Investment Facility (NIF) allows us to leverage funding from International Financial Institutions, ensuring strategic investments that otherwise would not materialise.
Of course we have to be strategic and very selective on projects that we can support through NIF. And I am making it a hallmark of my time in the Commission to work with the IFI community to maximise the impact we can make together.
One of the keys to success for our future co-operation will be a mechanism to identify priority investments in the next regional energy programme.
The second part of our approach is evidence-based energy policies, which would help create more harmonised and integrated energy markets and improved investment flows. This is about improving the energy security of both the European Union AND its partners to the east.
INOGATE helped many partners strengthen legislative and regulatory frameworks and helped pave the way for Ukraine and Moldova joining the Energy Community, with Georgia now a candidate and Armenia an observer. We know that such a close relationship with us is not the choice of every partner, but our goal is indeed to broaden market opportunities for all.
The third pillar of our approach is a strong focus on energy efficiency and renewables. This is important for climate action but also in many other ways. If Ukraine had energy efficiency in line with the European Union average, it would no longer have to import gas. Just take a moment to think how that might have changed its recent history. But as I have already pointed out, tackling the energy-inefficient building stock that many partners in the east have inherited from an earlier era is also the key to many economic and social gains.
Fourthly, a word about the multi-lateral and regional levels.
In the Eastern Partnership we work bilaterally with each country, respecting their choices.
But we also agree together through the Eastern Partnership energy platform on priorities for the region, and my hope is that we will now step up our work with International Financial Institutions so that we can bring all key stakeholders into discussions. Such "Thematic Frameworks" for co-operation should help us to define and finance strategic investments. AND,
our energy outreach should of course not end with the direct neighbours of the EU. As our recent review of Neighbourhood Policy has proposed, I hope that we can work more closely with others including our Central Asia partners who are here in the room today.
The challenge which we have faced, so far successfully, with INOGATE, is to maintain our partnership and our commitment in the face of change. I believe that the cooperation we have developed, together with new initiatives in response to your priorities, will equip us to face the continuing challenges with confidence and determination.
I am sure our meeting today and tomorrow will confirm that determination and will provide a good sense of direction for the future.
I wish you a successful conference.