Maroš Šefčovič, Vice-President for Energy Union of the European Commission, delivered the introductory remarks. The panel featured Karl Kraus, Chairman of the Board of RWE Slovensko, Rastislav Ňukovič, General Director of Eustream a.s., Péter Kaderják, Director of the Regional Centre for Energy Policy Research at the Corvinus University of Budapest, and Lívia Vašáková, Economic Counsellor of the Representation of the European Commission in Bratislava. Tomi Huhtanen, Director of the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies in Belgium, chaired the debate. The discussion was further shaped by the participants’ responses to our forthcoming policy paper V4’s role in increasing EU’s energy security, available in the draft version for comments.
The panellists recognized significant improvements in the area of energy security of the Visegrad countries (V4) and the EU as a whole in the years following the 2009 energy crisis. The coupling of Hungarian, Slovak, Czech, and later Romanian electricity markets was highlighted as the most visible success of regional integration. The gas infrastructure in the region has also progressed considerably with the finalization of several interconnectors between Central European countries. The concept of the gas North-South corridor emerged, with parts of it having already been put in place. Furthermore, the creation of LNG terminals has enabled the Northern parts of the region – Poland and Lithuania – to receive direct energy shipments.
Three broader topics dominated this roundtable discussion. First, panellists emphasized the need to enhance sub-regional markets in order to eventually create a single European energy market. The experts called for deeper integration and cooperation in electricity and gas markets, including the integration of Poland into the coupling scheme. From the Hungarian perspective, to proceed constructively, this cooperation must be non-binding to avoid areas of policy conflict, and not exclusive only to the V4 countries. Limits established by the Visegrad Group and EU borders create artificial barriers for energy infrastructure. V4 countries should be able to cooperate with countries outside the EU, particularly by expanding the appropriate infrastructure to Southern Europe and Western Balkans.
Second, participants underlined the need to increase competitiveness in the regional energy market. Regulated energy prices and heavy bureaucracy distort markets and inhibit innovation.
Third, the discussion also revealed that there are noticeable disagreements regarding the political and economic implications of the Nord Stream II project. If implemented, NSII would impede previous achievements of the EU’s energy supply diversification goal in Central Europe and consequently also the energy security of the EU. The experts highlighted the financial and political losses that Ukraine and transit countries (especially Slovakia) will suffer if the Ukrainian pipeline is terminated. Furthermore, NS II will require considerable financial investments in new infrastructure whereas the existing infrastructure – Brotherhood gas pipeline going through Ukraine – would be neglected. On the other hand, some experts expressed more neutral attitudes pointing to scepticism towards Ukraine as a reliable partner, and to the fact that the Brotherhood gas pipeline is becoming less relevant for the Czech Republic.
The final version of the policy paper, V4’s role in increasing EU’s energy security, with the incorporated feedback, is going to be presented on 23 Monday 2015 during the Central European Energy Conference in Bratislava.