Energy treaty to be signed Tuesday

Eleven Balkan nations are scheduled to sign an historic treaty in Athens on Tuesday, unifying their power production and natural gas markets, with an ultimate view to being integrated in the European Union’s internal energy market in future. Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Greece, Montenegro, Romania, Turkey, Serbia, and the UN mission to Kosovo will sign the treaty setting up the Southeastern Europe Energy Community, a legally binding agreement for cooperation between them and the EU. It will be the first time that the EU signs a pact extending the acquis communautaire to non-members. The pact can be compared to the 1951 Paris Treaty setting up the pioneering European Coal and Steel Community. In economic terms, the market means a total investment of more than 20 billion euros in the next 15 years. According to a recent report prepared for the European Commission and the World Bank, it is estimated that 12.5 billion euros will be needed for construction of new and maintenance of existing power stations, and a further 8.5 billion for construction of the necessary transmission and distribution grids. The creation of this regional energy market is seen as upgrading the Balkan region into an East-West link, while ensuring the uninterrupted supply of fuels to the EU market through a differentiation of energy sources. For Greece, the only EU member of the new energy community, the pact is seen as a significant improvement of its inter-connections with EU energy networks. The treaty will also be signed by EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs and Britain’s Trade and Industry Secretary Alan Johnson in his capacity as representative of the current EU presidency.