Following the announcement of the shared Polish-French idea to develop an EU Energy Union, we’ve asked ECFR staff from Berlin, Rome, Sofia, Warsaw, and Madrid, to contribute to our “View from the capitals” series. How do the different member states view the proposal? Are the governments going to support it?
The crisis with Russia over Ukraine has got many in Europe discussing measures to lessen European energy dependence on Russia, including a timely proposal for an energy union. In this context debate in Spain has been discussing the country’s potential as a gas supplier to Europe.
Spain does not rely on Russian gas – it imports gas from Algeria and other countries. This, together with its geographical position as a European port of entry, and the fact that it has a number of under-used re-gasification plants, could make Spain an alternative energy supplier to other European countries (according to some estimates, it could supply between 10 and 15 percent of the European demand). This enhanced role of Spain as an energy hub would require, amongst other things, an agreement with neighbour countries (chiefly, France) to improve infrastructure connections with the rest of Europe.
Importantly, an enhanced Spanish role should not just be framed in terms of national interests and economic benefits. (Europeans, particularly nowadays, put by default national interests ahead of European solidarity.) Rather, it should stem from a broader European agreement on a strategy towards a common energy market. This would reduce Europe’s systemic vulnerabilities in the event of geopolitical crises – and thus its multiple dependencies from illiberal regimes, both east and south of the EU’s borders.
Furthermore, this energy question should be an integral part of a broader European security compromise to overcome the security perceptions’ gap between Eastern and Southern European countries, one of the many hurdles for Europe’s foreign policy. A positive agenda is needed – and less intra-EU cleavages. It could be jointly led by Poland and Spain, building on existing synergies between Madrid and Warsaw. This agenda would include a strategic dialogue East-South, something that does not currently exist, closer diplomatic and military cooperation (within NATO and EU’s CSDP missions), and practical solidarity between unusual bedfellows such as Spain and the Baltic countries.
This blog is part of a series of views from the capitals on a European Energy Union. You can find the whole collection here.
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