Eu/balkans: New Treaty Paves Way for South-East Europe Energy Community

Article excerpt

We have come full circle: The Athens process, which began in 2002 in the Greek capital with the intention of integrating the Balkan countries in the internal electricity and subsequently gas (decision taken in 2003) markets, is now set in stone. The signatories of the Treaty, and in particular its indefatigable advocate, the Special Coordinator for the South-East Europe Stability Pact, the Austrian Erhard Busek, proclaim that it has been modelled on the 1951 European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) Treaty. In other words, this Treaty with its economic aims is nothing but a step towards the integration of the Balkan countries into Europe's political scene.

Yet Turkey, which was meant to be the Treaty's tenth signatory, did not reply to the invitation. Ukraine, on the other hand, was present as an observer and during the meeting with the European Energy Commissioner, Andris Piebalgs, the Ukrainian representative made no secret of the fact that it would one day like to be considered as a member of the South-East Europe Energy Community.

The social dimension.

European legislation with regard to the liberalisation of electricity and gas contains no reference to social aspects apart from public service obligations. European trade unions represented by the European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU) have denounced European leaders' "irresponsibility and hypocrisy". "Liberalisation is foisted on theses countries without any social pillar", they claim. For the unions, the European Commission and the British Presidency are "not only ignoring the people and the need to promote jobs and cohesion in this still fragile region, but [also] ignoring the mistakes of the EUs own energy liberalisation experiences (namely 300,000 jobs lost and rising)". …