The Energy Community in three catch-words
Article from: OGEL 2 (2014), in Editorial
If one would want to characterize the Energy Community in three words, the first coming to mind is the adjective "dynamic". Entered into force only some eight years on the postwar Balkan peninsula, the Community was mainly conceived as a pre-accession instrument. Its original rationale was to lead the countries of South East Europe into the European Union as one energy region. That gave the Community a natural expiry date. This date is even formally stipulated in Article 97 of the Treaty which limited the Community's original duration to ten years. And indeed, three of the original Contracting Parties - Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania - left the Community in the meantime. It was only a matter of time until the last Balkan country would have joined the EU. Two developments prevented that from happening. They ensured that the Energy Community still matters today, and matters more than before.
The first one is actually not dynamic at all. It is the reluctance on the side of the EU to swiftly admit countries from the region to the club, a phenomenon which has often been described as "enlargement fatigue". Given the economic, but also the identity crisis the Union is currently living through, this attitude may well last. As far as the Energy Community is concerned "c'est le provisoire qui dure". If there is one thing to learn from this development, it is the importance of a stable and well-designed Community which is more than just a waiting room for accession but is capable of satisfying genuine interest and needs of the participating third countries.
Secondly, and more evidently, the enlargement of the Community in 2010 and 2011 did not only change its geographical scope but also changed its nature in a more fundamental manner than what most expected. Moldova and Ukraine show that the Energy Community is about more than just re-integrating the energy sectors of former Yugoslavia. It showed its openness to accession by countries from beyond that region, most notably by Eastern Partnership countries. Another border country, Georgia is about to join this year and provide impetus for the Energy Community's dynamism. These countries come with their very own heritage and a different type of challenges. Their relation with Russia, the EU's largest gas supplier, obviously plays an important role. Membership in the Energy Community could be a bridge to the EU internal market but unfortunately is perceived by many simply as moving the borders eastwards. As we have recently seen in Ukraine, energy integration takes courage and deserves our full solidarity. Its potential in the future can only be fully tapped if it remains open for partner countries sharing the same values. The Mediterranean may yet be another geographical area interested in the benefits of regional and pan-European integration.
The second term that comes to our mind when describing the Energy Community is the rule of law. The decision to build that Community on the same values as its European role model - an internal market created through the harmonization of laws and governed by institutions - was a wise one. Progress can be measured and benchmarked, deficiencies can be identified, and commitments can be enforced. This distinguishes the Energy Community from a lot of looser associations in the vicinity of Europe. The rule of law is not only a strong tie, it goes also deep beneath the surface of cross-border energy flows at least in the case of the Energy Community. Membership requires profound reforms of the way the markets are designed and operated. The rule of law, however, cannot thrive in a hostile environment. It needs institutions inside the countries which respect and nurse it. It also needs a layer of well-functioning institutions and procedures on the Community level, a second line of defense, to enforce the commitments where the domestic actors fail. The purpose of the rule of law is to protect market participants and individuals, the main beneficiaries of the Energy Community. Improving the present unsatisfactory situation was the reason in the first place to initiate a reform of the Energy Community Treaty. This process culminated in the report of 2 June 2014 of the High Level Reflection Group chaired by Jerzy Buzek, a strong boost not only for the rule of law in the Energy Community but yet another proof of its dynamism.
Number three in this subjective ranking of buzz-words describing the Energy Community is complexity. Its acquis communautaire and the activities developed by its institutions go way beyond what the Treaty describes lapidary as "network energy". They include sector governance issues, the promotion of infrastructure, the improvement of the environmental situation, competition and State aid enforcement as well as social and security aspects. In all areas, the Energy Community cannot be looked at and analyzed in isolation but is to be seen in the European and sometimes even global context of. This, after all, is the purpose of the present publication: to attest to that complexity by selecting individual aspects of the Energy Community. The large number of contributions shows how topical this approach is. Far away from providing a coherent account of where the Energy Community stands today, it provides numerous tie-ins for the future debate. It provides for an inspiring reading and will hopefully enrich the Energy Community with many fruitful discussions.