GCC-EU energy cooperation is needed more than ever
GCC-EU energy cooperation is needed more than ever
Earlier this year, the EU and the Gulf Cooperation Council agreed on their joint action program for the period 2022-2027. It is an ambitious indicative plan emphasizing strategic cooperation, including a far-reaching energy partnership. Although the GCC-EU Joint Council, as the body made up of EU and GCC foreign ministers is called, had met dozens of times before, there was a sense of urgency at the meeting. in Brussels on February 21, three days before the war in Ukraine. started.
The impending war was one of the main reasons for the gravity of this February meeting, but other factors also pointed to the need to reinvigorate and improve the EU-GCC strategic partnership. They included the worsening energy crisis in Europe and a common awareness of the need to strengthen regional security to protect trade routes.
GCC-EU cooperation dates back to at least 1988, when the two blocs signed their first agreement and set up several bodies to guide their partnership, including the Joint Ministerial Council made up of foreign ministers from all EU member states. EU and GCC, as well as representatives from both the respective bloc bureaucracies, the Joint Cooperation Committee, the Energy Experts Group and several other specialized groups. Their relationship has been through rough times but has endured nonetheless and, judging by the recent euphoria shared, seems to be climbing to higher levels.
A structural dilemma has unwittingly contributed to Europe’s energy crisis. Over the past decade, Europe has adopted new environmental policies and decided to phase out conventional energy sources, such as nuclear and coal, as well as reduce its dependence on oil and gas. These policies have led to severe shortages, as alternatives are not produced in sufficient quantities to fill the gap.
Another source of concern has been Europe’s dependence on imported energy and especially the lack of diversification of foreign energy sources. Achieving energy independence will take time. The increasing dependence of EU countries on a limited number of energy suppliers has led to repeated declarations of the adoption of a new strategy aimed at diversifying sources of supply, in addition to increase the use of renewable energies, but there is still a lot to be done to develop renewable energies.
Despite considerable efforts to diversify energy sources and increase the contribution of renewables, the current crisis highlights Europe’s continued dependence on imported supplies. In 2020, the EU’s energy dependency rate exceeded 60% on average and reached up to 90% in some of its Member States. Divestment from nuclear and coal power in Germany, Europe’s largest energy consumer, has increased its dependence on imports, with the development of renewables lagging behind demand.
As we have seen with a number of recent geopolitical developments, Europe’s energy dependence has not only affected the stability of energy supplies and prices, but has also limited its options for dealing with important issues. foreign policy, while creating discord among its members.
The Gulf countries share some of Europe’s security concerns as well as the desire for greater diversification in trade and energy.
Dr. Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg
Germany provides a clear example of the changing energy situation. For both geopolitical and domestic reasons, Berlin has recently made significant changes to its foreign and energy policies, which could lead to a comparable shift in Germany’s approach to the region. It has taken steps to diversify its energy supplies and slow the phase-out of coal to alleviate potential future shortages and blackouts. Other European countries have made comparable adjustments.
The Gulf countries share some of Europe’s security concerns as well as the desire for greater diversification in trade and energy. Their joint partnership could address these concerns more effectively. For example, both parties are concerned about the security of energy supplies. The Gulf region is home to around 50% of the world’s oil reserves, production and exports, as well as a significant share of gas. This can help Europe cope with its current shortages and rising prices. On the other hand, if the Gulf’s energy supply is disrupted, as threatened by Iran and its regional proxies, energy supply and prices will be affected worldwide, including in Europe. , which will make matters worse.
The growing partnership between the GCC and the EU should contribute significantly to regional security and the security of energy supplies, notably through joint work on maritime security and the fight against terrorism, in particular with regard to the protection of straits and other international passages through which energy supplies pass.
In addition to securing existing energy supplies, there is great potential for the joint development of new energy sources, including solar and green hydrogen. GCC countries are well placed to develop both and seek international cooperation in both areas.
The GCC and EU block-to-block frameworks serve a useful purpose in energy cooperation through the sharing of knowledge and best practices. However, the heavy lifting of actually achieving energy security and diversification is best undertaken bilaterally, state-to-state, or through private sector actors on both sides. The large-scale financing needed for energy megaprojects may require joint ventures by capable companies working directly together.
The recent announcement of Saudi Arabia’s commitment to build a huge hydrogen plant with a daily capacity of 650 tons of environmentally friendly green hydrogen is an example of international partnership, with Saudi companies and united to complete the project by 2026. Projects in the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Egypt and Morocco provide further evidence of the potential for global cooperation to increase clean energy supply and ensure energy security the same time.
• Dr. Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg is the GCC’s Deputy Secretary General for Political Affairs and Negotiation, and a columnist for Arab News. The opinions expressed in this article are personal and do not necessarily represent the views of the GCC.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the authors in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Arab News