On 17 October the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) held a conference on the geopolitics of energy strategies in the Euro-Mediterranean region. Jointly organised with the Italian National Council for Economics and Labour (CNEL) in Rome, the conference underlined the potential of the EU's Southern Neighbourhood countries as producers of green hydrogen, especially now in light of the war in Ukraine. The area can become a key player in the energy sector to the benefit of all involved stakeholders.
The weaponisation of energy caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine has significantly changed the architecture of the European energy market. It has become evident that energy is an essential pillar of the EU's sovereignty.
The war in Ukraine has placed energy at the core of Euro-Mediterranean relations. We need to step up our cooperation throughout the region and ensure a successful transition to a sustainable energy system which will also increase energy security and our autonomy. Such reforms can only be carried out with the full involvement of organised civil society. We need solidarity within the EU and with third countries in this field, said EESC president Christa Schweng.
Along the same lines, Patrizia Toia, Member of the European Parliament referred to the Russian war on Ukraine which demonstrated the dependency of European states on Russian oil and gas. She flagged the importance of cooperation within the Euro-Mediterranean area: EU Member States need to strengthen their links with the Southern Neighbourhood for providing sustainable alternative energy carriers. The region's high renewable energy potential will be instrumental for the EU to achieve its ambitious decarbonisation targets while avoiding new energy dependencies.
Given that the Southern Mediterranean has been identified as one of the three major corridors for green hydrogen imports by the EU, the president of the Italian National Council, Tiziano Treu, underlined the need for further collaboration: Cooperation between countries of the Euro-Mediterranean area is important to create a fair partnership for sustainable development based on the common values of solidarity and closeness. He also added: Energy strategies, in order to be effective, must derive from a joint and shared action of the EU first and foremost with European national governments.
Grammenos Mastrojeni, senior deputy secretary-general in charge of Energy and Climate Action, Union for the Mediterranean, highlighted: None of the countries in the Euro-Med region – not even the richest – have enough resources to face a crisis of such pace and amplitude on their own. But together we do: and if we understand it, besides facing climate change effectively, we will build that shared and fairer economy that can finally achieve a stable peace in all corners of our region.
In the sessions that followed, the participants discussed how new energy suppliers could reduce dependence on individual suppliers and debated the mitigation of the economic and social impact of high energy prices.
Concluding the event, Ioannis Vardakastanis, EESC member and president of the EESC Euromed Follow-Up Committee, called for the promotion of renewable energy, as it has the potential to support sustainable and inclusive economic growth, trade and cooperation throughout the Mediterranean region.
The outcome of the conference debates will feed into an information report on energy policies and strategies in the Euro-Mediterranean region, prepared by the EESC's External Relations Section (REX).