Europe relies upon energy imported from regions on its periphery, especially from Russia, North Africa, the Caspian and the Middle East. The degree of this reliance will increase in coming decades. This trend of rising energy imports from countries on the European periphery has important security implications. Energy dependence will compel the European Union (EU) to pay close attention to political and economic developments in the countries of the periphery. While this import dependence is growing, the EU is seeking to liberalize internal energy markets. The liberalization process also has an impact on Europe’s external energy trade relationships and on security of supply.
European energy security requires, first, that new production capacities in the periphery regions be developed in a timely manner along with adequate transportation systems to deliver the energy to European markets. European security then requires that the likelihood of interruptions to such supplies is minimized, and, in the event of an interruption, that the consequences for European consumers are moderated. Oil and gas production capacities in countries neighbouring Europe are being enlarged, and transportation systems are being planned and constructed to provide additional supplies to Europe. For the most part, private companies from both importing and exporting countries, and in some cases the national oil companies of the exporting countries, are making these investments, often as joint ventures.
The EU is trying to define a comprehensive energy security policy and to ensure that this policy is compatible with liberalized energy markets. Meanwhile, the EU already helps to provide the favourable business climate in which private energy infrastructure investments take place. To some extent, energy security can be addressed directly through energyspecific policies, but ultimately energy security is inextricable from broader economic and foreign policy challenges and solutions. A continuous flow of energy from the periphery countries to Europe will depend, ultimately, upon steady improvements in the quality of life and the comprehensiveness of political participation in the periphery countries themselves.