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Energy security: who is who?

Perceptions and expectations 

According to the EU Commissioner of Energy, Andris Piebalgs, the energy challenge is one of the greatest challenges the world faces. Challenges such as climate change, global security, sustainable economic development: the major political challenges which we face every day can only be resolved if we are able to resolve the energy challenge.
The notion of energy safety concerns the physical safety of issues such as critical infrastructure and transports. According to Kęstutis Budrys, the concept of energy security holds the notion of “long-term stable supply of strategically important raw materials for acceptable price. Ensuring energy security implies full satisfaction of demand for energy resources for acceptable price through stable supply of diversified resources over diversified routes from stable suppliers, i.e. the maximum minimisation of the risk of potential change in the supply conditions.”The concept of security of supply mainly deals with the end consumer, in this case the European Union and Lithuania, receiving energy from the main exporter – Russia. Threats related with energy supply security can be of various nature, including infrastructure failures as well as political decisions. ‘Energy security’ is thus a wide concept and the terms ‘security of supply’ and ‘energy safety’ are subordinated to it. In this paper when dealing with energy security we will be dealing with domestic and international energy issues which influence the capability to guarantee lasting and secure supply of energy resources. This often intermingles with foreign policy, questions of dependence, national and supra-national interests.
Intermingling of political considerations with the supply of energy resources is a trend that is presenting itself as a threat to the stability of world energy market. One of the turning points and wake up calls for Europe was Russian decision to briefly suspend gas deliveries to Ukraine in winter 2005-06 and to suspend oil deliveries to Belarus in winter 2006-07. Both Ukraine and Belarus are vital transit countries; therefore this has highlighted the fragility of the  European energy supply chain. According to Atanas Kovel and Armin Riess (Publication in the EIB Papers) there is growing anxiety (how well is it grounded is another question, which will also be addressed in the coming chapters) that factors such as political instability in these countries or their neighbours can cause disruptions of supply based on political grounds. The rise in international oil prices, notably since end-2003, combined with emerging economies’ growing demand for energy back the notion that a secure supply of energy at affordable prices cannot be taken for granted. 

The accession of new EU members in 2004 brought out new possible conflicts in the area of energy security. Many of the newly accepted countries, Lithuania included, have a historic background of repressions from and distrust towards Russia. Therefore various projects, which include both the EU and Russia might be of a greater concern for them than EU could expect it to be. One of such examples is the North European pipeline meant to connect Russia with Germany by an undersea gas pipe and allowing Russia to export gas directly to the Western Europe. I will return to the question of this pipeline in the upcoming chapters illustrating in greater detail how the same project can be perceived in a completely different manner by various countries, officially pursuing the same goals. This really brings forward the question of EU Solidarity on energy security as well as EU solidarity in a broader sense.

For over ten years now Europe has been trying to complete the internal energy market, but Europe still consists of a series of national markets. National giants or leading energy companies are operating and are connected mainly by series of bilateral links. According to Dieter Helm, “there is not yet much of a European market at all, and only the rudiments of a European electricity grid and pipeline network. This national, rather than European, physical structure of the market is reflected at the policy level too: almost all European countries have national energy policies, and indeed almost all are engaged in national energy policy reviews. In many of these cases, the European dimension has to date received scant attention.” Having a national energy policy of course is not fault on it’s own. The problem is that the challenges energy markets face today are no longer national. Therefore we have global challenges, national markets, and a European energy strategy stating that objectives of security of supply and climate change are now, respectively, European and global. The former necessarily requires a European policy response, and the latter requires Europe to take the lead in gaining global agreement and reducing its own emissions.