NATO’s role in energy security challenges for South-Eastern Europe
Energy security – a strategic issue for NATO and its partners and a key item on the Alliance’s agenda – was the focus of a high-level conference in Zagreb, Croatia from 26 to 27 May.
Allied leaders stressed the importance of the issue of energy security at the Bucharest Summit in April 2008, identifying principles and outlining options and recommendations for NATO to tackle the problem. The dependance on foreign energy supplies and the vulnerability of energy supply networks was also identified as a key challenge in today’s security environment in NATO’s new Strategic Concept, published in November 2010,
“The importance of energy from a political, economic, social and environmental perspective can no longer be underestimated in security circles,” said Dr Davor Božinović, the Croatian Minister of Defence, in his introductory speech. “The new Strategic Concept emphasizes the importance of energy for all countries, asserting that NATO will develop the capacity to contribute to energy security.”
Dr Božinović also highlighted NATO’s potential contribution to energy security, saying it “rests on the premise of a three-track approach: (1) promoting dialogue and the sharing of information; (2) projecting stability; and (3) facilitating critical energy infrastructure protection. […] My own expectation is that by focusing on energy security, we can also promote broader political dialogue within the Alliance and strengthen NATO’s role as a consultative forum.”
The event, entitled “Emerging Security Challenges: Prospects for Energy Security in South-Eastern Europe”, is one of several initiatives aimed at meeting the challenges of energy security. Jointly organized by NATO and Croatia, the conference was attended by security and energy experts from NATO and partner countries and included representatives from the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC), the Mediterranean Dialogue and the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI), as well as from the business sector and other relevant international actors.
In his keynote address, Mr Peter Poptchev, Ambassador at Large for Energy Security and Climate Change with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria, said NATO can fulfil its role on energy security through gathering intelligence, sharing information and raising awareness on issues of common concern.
The Ambassador said the Alliance can provide tailor-made practical solutions for different countries or regions and develop training opportunities, as well as building on NATO’s role in the maritime domain. He also suggested making use of the NATO-Russia framework and the EU-Russia Dialogue for discussions on energy security issues in order to facilitate a common understanding.
During an in-depth debate on energy security issues with regard to developments and future trends and options for the energy sector in South-Eastern Europe, participants identified several opportunities for regional and/or multilateral cooperation on energy security as well as lessons that may be valuable for other regions. Diversification and variety of resources and routes of transportation are of key importance.
Delegates also acknowledged NATO’s role in energy security, in particular with regard to promoting consultations, stability, exchange of information and best practices, and the protection of critical energy infrastructure.
No miracle solution
Dr Jamie Shea, NATO’s Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges, chaired the event. In his concluding remarks, he underlined that “all the issues brought up by the experts during the discussions prove once again that energy security is a strategic issue for the Alliance as dependence on foreign supplies is set to increase in the future.”
“There is no miracle solution around the corner to all the challenges raised,” he cautioned. “As stated during the discussions, we need to turn our reciprocal dependency into reciprocal diversity.”.