Huge investment needed to upgrade Southeast Europe’s energy network

SOFIA (Reuters) – Southeastern Europe needs 25 billion euros ($29.44 billion) in investment to bring its energy network up to European Union standards, officials said yesterday. In October, the EU and seven Balkan countries signed a treaty establishing a common energy network aimed at boosting competition, improving grid interconnection, attracting investment and safeguarding the EU’s future energy needs. During the first meeting after the signing, member states Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina agreed to set up a regional investment fund to boost their energy infrastructure. «According to the EU Commission, the region will need 25 billion euros in investment by 2012 to meet EU standards,» Bulgarian Energy Minister Rumen Ovcharov said after the meeting. EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs said the community should look into ways next year to attract financing through the European Investment Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the World Bank. «There is a strong need for investment in the region. This 25 billion euros should be invested in generation, transmission and distribution networks,» Piebalgs said. Both Piebalgs and Ovcharov urged the members to speed up the ratification of the treaty, which is aimed at binding the countries to adopt EU energy rules, open up energy markets and meet EU environmental standards. Turkey, a major energy hub in the area, is currently in talks with the EU to join the treaty, Piebalgs said.