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THREE QUESTIONS TO ZUZANNA NOWAK, POLISH INSTITUTE OF INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS : "PARADOXICALLY, COAL COULD BRING WARSAW AND BERLIN CLOSER TOGETHER".

Zuzanna Nowak, an analyst at the Polish Institute of International Affairs (PISM), discusses the energy issues raised at a meeting between Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, on 12 March in Warsaw.

Tusk has criticised the links between the German and Russian gas industries. What is behind this dispute?

This has been a recurring theme in European negotiations for several years. On the one hand, Donald Tusk refers to German dependence on Russian gas, which is true in absolute terms. More than 30 billion m3 of gas in Germany comes from Russia. In Poland, the respective figure is less than ten billion m3. On the other hand, this must also be viewed in relative terms: in Poland, Russian gas represents almost 80% of imports, compared with 50% in Germany. Germany uses more gas from Norway, the Netherlands and Algeria. From this perspective, it is not surprising that Germany feels unjustly targeted by Tusk's proposal. Although this problem affects a lot of other countries, the Polish prime minister gave only Germany as an example. Taking into account the favourable relations between Berlin and Warsaw, finding a common position could set a good example for the rest of the EU. That's why I'm not speaking about conflict.

Donald Tusk has proposed pooling gas purchases at EU level. Is this realistic?

Indeed, it would be desirable to reach a common position not only on Russia but also on other providers, such as Norway, Algeria and perhaps one day the United States. However, times have changed, it is no longer states that are in charge of importing primary materials. The European market is dominated by private actors, and it is difficult to impose state supervision on purchasing and distribution. Since every state has different conditions for purchasing, and highly variable rates, how would a European price be decided? [...] The main actor that would be concerned by such a European revolution, Gazprom, would establish a series of manoeuvres to maintain the fragmentation of the European gas market. [...] The proposal does not seem realistic.

Merkel and Tusk announced that by the end of the year they would reach a 'common position' on energy-climate matters. Is this feasible, taking into account the differences in the two countries' energy policies?

It is true that our coal-based policy is very different to Germany's, which is based on the transition to using renewable energies. However, this transition will not happen overnight, and Germany is currently building coal plants to complement renewable sources. In this context, coal could - paradoxically - bring Warsaw and Berlin closer together, since the Polish climate policy should reduce CO2 emissions without eliminating carbon from the energy mix. Poland needs German technology to reduce its emissions, and Germany will also, at some point, need coal. Therefore I think there is room for an agreement. Germany and Poland are becoming an important European duo, and an agreement between countries with such different energy policies would send out a positive signal to the EU. If the Weimar triangle - nuclear France, renewable Germany and coal-based Poland - established an agreement on energy, this could provide the basis for solving the energy problem in the entire European Union.

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Publication:Europe Energy
Geographic Code:4EUGE
Date:Mar 26, 2014
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