This week has taught me a lot on a particular topical subject, that I have probably underestimated before then: energy security and dependence as well as environment, which are of course interconnected under many aspects. The visit at the European External Action Service, the visit at the US mission to the EU regarding TTIP, but mostly the visit at the DG Energy on Wednesday and at Fleishman Hillard, the Consulting firm, provided very interesting details about energy security.
There are many major points in the lecture we have received from the British official of the Directorate General for Energy of the EU Commission. Firstly, the idea that the external dimension of EU energy policy is based on three big pillars: competitiveness –maintaining a market that is differentiated with a variety of choices – security of supply – trying to secure resources and not be too highly dependent on someone else’s energy supply – and finally sustainable development – efficiency, research and development, find good sources of renewable energy, expand the emission trading system. What I really found fascinating concerns the second point, on security of supply. This topic involves many areas and interconnects different issues for a main goal, being as independent as possible on the energy market. In fact, there is a serious need for Europe to keep on increasing energy efficiency and concentrate on renewable energies in order to be less dependent on energy imports. The high dependency on oil (82%) and gas (66%), Russian gas mostly, coupled with the high tensions happening nowadays with the Russian Federation and Syria, amplify even more the danger of not being self-reliant in terms of energy. In addition to this, energy security of countries such as Poland and of the Baltic States is even more threatened, so there is an imminent need to have secure energy transportation systems. What is even more interesting and challenging about it, is to develop a cheap and efficient interconnection for energy transport that connects all the member countries of the EU. The aging infrastructure and the actual economic crisis – which obviously has tendency to slow down the actions of renewing aging infrastructures in energy transport – coupled with preoccupying global warming and emissions of greenhouse gas urges the EU to improve energy efficiency, transportation and renewables. In my opinion, on a long term security perspective, this topic is far more significant the military tensions in the Middle East or in Crimea. In fact, it is the whole economy of the EU that is at stake: the industries, highly dependent on energy, everyday life of citizens and households, with transportation systems and house commodities, and finally trade. I am thankful to have had such lectures on this issue, it has enabled me to step out of the darkness on this very sensitive but quite underestimated issue (at least by the public opinion, in my point of view).
The visit at the consulting firm on Friday morning, Fleishman Hillard, also provided an insight on energy security, as well as cyber security and tech issues. This visit appealed to me greatly because, since I am an Industrial Engineering major, consulting for private firms or public institutions could be one of the careers I am likely to undertake. I was amazed by the wide range of abilities that those consultants have to master: they have to have great knowledge of the technicalities of the sector they are in charge of, they have to know how to act as diplomats – especially for building coalitions among firms and institutions – they have to be able to be persuasive, convincing and confident with very diverging types of clients – when they advise coal and oil companies, compared to when they advise green, pro-environment companies…Versatility is needed, a capacity to twist information and be competent on all grounds, by adapting and changing the narrative according to the client they have in front of them. In my opinion, those people deserve great recognition, and for sure they have my admiration for their work.
This was an important week for security again, with the visit at the European External Action Service and the briefing by Emma’s host dad, an advisor to the Secretary General of NATO. The session at the EEAS also evoked the issue of energy security in a part, when dealing with the EU-US relations. This shows that the issue is not only European, but it is even more a worldwide issue. The EEAS is in fact often in charge of cooperating with the USA on many issues, since at the head of the institution is Federica Mogherini, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. TO this point, we have witnessed how vast and relevant the role of the High Representative is; even though it is a position created not long ago, I do not understand how it is still possible to have nations and diplomats, all across the international sphere, that do not give enough recognition to her role. The High Representative not only chairs the monthly meetings of the EU Foreign Affairs Council, it also represents the EU at the UN Security Council, it conducts bilateral diplomatic relations, and especially meets often with US Secretary of State John Kerry for issues like energy security and TTIP. Also, the visits of the EEAS through the High Representative to NATO are extremely frequent, and given the major interaction between the HR and the CSDP, I am firmly convinced of the importance of an institution like the EEAS nowadays: its sheer scope in terms of security policy is unique in Europe. I feel like I was able to get a lot from this site visit too.
The NATO briefing by the advisor of the Secretary General was very different, but equally interesting, in that it linked more the security issues with economics. Curiously enough, he demonstrated to us that EU countries that are suffering the most economically today are those that have the worst demographics. This is a very atypical observation, that I had never heard about nor thought about, to be honest, and that surprised me. In fact, analyzing the importance of demographics represent an actual tool for understanding economic situations: the retirement of the baby-boom generation people is creating economic and financial issues for which the countries concerned had not planned ahead. The rising number of pensions that states have to pay coupled to the decrease in birth rate, and so the decrease in the work force has played a role in the zero growth and negative growth of certain years in certain countries. With economic instability, it is easier to have political instability, and this is the source to many conflicts. I realize how fascinating this interconnection is, and how a disruption in one sector can have very rapid escalation and affect other sectors dangerously. This is why I really enjoyed this lecture too.
Finally, this week we visited the US mission to the EU in Brussels, where we had a briefing by an American official on TTIP and the EU-US trade issues. Again, a very insightful briefing, and interesting, but in a different way. For sure, we learnt important facts about the TTIP negotiations, and notably the four major pillars of those negotiations (market access, – tariffs – establish a trade society, reduce regulations and establish common standards to facilitate trade, and finally globally relevant issues). However, what I found more interesting about this visit was the narrative that the diplomat utilized, and how her words implied a certain disregard of EU policy but also of EU citizens – such as suggesting how little Europeans work compared to Americans… If this is my journal, I would like to give my honest humble opinion about this several debatable terminologies and declarations about the EU made by the speaker. I think they showed a certain ignorance about the work that EU institutions are providing, and little recognition of how challenging it is to organize and enforce legislation for a community of 28 sovereign countries… It was a very pro-American (narrow) viewpoint.
Finally, we ended the week with the visit of the Musée Bellevue, which taught us the history of the establishment of the kingdom of Belgium. It was a cultural, historical and architectural optional moment, which I decided to enjoy in order to keep on expanding my knowledge in European culture and history especially.
I am starting to feel that this program is turning me into a better rounded individual, and is broadening my horizons. Now off to Ireland!