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The Warsaw Voice » Business » November 3, 2015
Central Europe Energy Partners
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CEEP News
November 3, 2015   
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Debating Energy Challenges

Improving the competitiveness of the European refinery sectbr, paving the way for the North-South Corridor, and providing the continent with more gas supply options—these were the main topics of recent talks between Maros Sefcovic, Vice-President of the European Commission in charge of the Energy Union, and Paweł Olechnowicz, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Central Europe Energy Partners (CEEP).

The meeting took place Oct. 1 at the Lotos refinery in Gdańsk, northern Poland. It served as an occasion to tackle Central Europe’s most significant challenges in the field of energy. One of them is the relocation of the EU’s refining capacity to unregulated regions, with lower energy costs and softer emissions regulations. Olechnowicz said that Europe needs a healthy domestic refining sector, especially in an era of geopolitical upheaval. He said, “Improving the competitiveness of the European refinery sector is crucial, not only to hold back capacity decline and the loss of thousands of direct and indirect jobs in the EU. It is also important for the global environment, as the manufacturing of oil products in EU refineries is, on average, considerably less carbon intensive when compared with the rest of the world. To face that challenge, we believe the refinery industry should receive 100 percent of CO2 allowances up until 2030, so that it can face international competition from those regions where the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) is not applied.”

Legislation supporting the competitiveness of the energy sector should be accompanied by investment in infrastructure, along with action aimed at providing Europe with more supply options. In this context, Sefcovic emphasized the role of the North-South Corridor, whose aim is to connect Central European energy markets, both with each other and with the Western part of the continent. Sefcovic agreed that the North-South Corridor is the key enabler for completing the European integration process. “We want to keep industry in Europe, facilitate its development and increase its competitiveness,” he said. “This also applies to the whole energy sector, including oil, gas and electricity. We are aware of the need to foster investments in these fields, and EU regulations definitely have an impact on that. We will work hard to make sure that European industry has the proper conditions in which to grow.”

Leaders Discuss North-South Corridor in U.S. Talks

Establishing new energy transmission networks from the Baltic to the Adriatic Sea could serve as a new pillar of political security and economic competitiveness in the entire Western world. On Sept. 29, leaders of 12 Central European countries discussed this issue in Washington, D.C.— in a meeting that could serve as a historical milestone in making this vision happen.

The progress made in unifying Europe has been one of the greatest successes in recent history. Yet Central European countries are still burdened by insufficient integration, unsatisfactory infrastructure connectivity with Western Europe, and weak North-South links. This issue has been emphasized by Europe’s leaders for a long time. Most recently, fresh momentum to this debate was given by presidents, prime ministers, foreign ministers and ambassadors from Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Poland and Romania. This group met in Washington on the sidelines of the 70th session of the UN General Assembly in order to discuss the enormous political, economic and social benefits that the North-South Corridor would bring to the whole of Europe. CEEP’s reports on this issue served as a starting point for the discussion.

Of all the sectors discussed by Central European leaders in Washington, highest priority was given to the further integration of energy infrastructure. In this field, the North-South Corridor comprises a set of interrelated projects as a result of which a new “energy highway” from North to South, and back again, would be formed. The resulting infrastructure would form the backbone of Central Europe’s energy infrastructure, and further enhance the region’s energy security. That is why the momentum of the North-South Corridor being at the top of the political agenda in Europe should be used to give this project priority in European energy policy. The high-level meeting in Washington showed that an important step in this direction has been taken.
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