EU to spend up to 8 billion on joint Mediterranean energy projects

The European Union expects to spend 7 to 8 billion euros up to 2013 on energy projects with Mediterranean countries including Algeria, Egypt and Turkey to increase the bloc’s supply of natural gas. EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs gave the figure today after a meeting in Cyprus of EU ministers and officials and non-EU states located around the Mediterranean Sea. Additional funds will come from companies, other states and international institutions like the World Bank, Piebalgs said. The meeting approved a «priority action plan» for energy cooperation from 2008 to 2013 that calls on the participants to facilitate the financing and the execution of 17 projects, of which 13 are pipelines or cables to bring gas, oil and electricity to Europe from Africa and Central Asia. Gas consumption in the EU, the second-largest energy-consuming market behind the US, grew by 10 percent in the last five years, as countries like Spain and Italy shun nuclear power and coal-fired stations because of pollution and safety concerns. The 27-member bloc is seeking more gas from North Africa and Central Asia to reduce dependence on Russia’s OAO Gazprom. The «action plan» also urges the EU and its neighbors around the Mediterranean to harmonize energy policy and regulations «toward the longer-term goal of creating a common Euro-Mediterranean energy market.» It calls for cooperation on energy conservation and efficiency and on projects to produce electricity from renewable sources like wind and solar power. The list of the energy projects approved for EU funding, published at the end of the meeting in Cyprus, includes the gas interconnection Turkey-Greece-Italy, the Nabucco gas pipeline from Central Asia to Europe, an electricity interconnection between Turkey and Greece and the Burgas-Alexandropolis oil pipeline from Bulgaria to Greece. (Bloomberg)