Europe's quest for a new energy and security architecture
Europe is looking for a new energy and defense infrastructure in the shadow of the most recent events in the war in Ukraine. Western commentators have drawn an important conclusion from the recent developments: Europe cannot go back to the circumstances that existed before February 24, 2022, the day the Russian invasion of Ukraine started.
According to European politicians and analysts, considering the aforementioned justification, the time has come for the European Union to transition from an economic and a loose political union to an energy union. European capitals conclude that the union needs a unified defense architecture.
It is notable that European appraisals of Ukrainian developments now include not just the ongoing conflict but also the future of the European Union once the fighting has ended. All signs point to the Russian invasion of Ukraine as the beginning of a series of events that will alter the energy and security landscape of the old continent.
Towards a European energy community
The Union's top priority in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine is securing Europe's energy independence from Russia. In the last few days, European officials have concentrated on significant projects that may eventually result in the formation of a European energy community.
According to the Greek press, the European energy ministers have achieved a consensus that nations should begin purchasing gas from one another before the summer of 2019. The Commission plans its recommendations for this strategy. The suggestions are expected to include some topics covered at the recent extraordinary summit in Prague.
To prevent nations from "outbidding" one another in the markets, one suggestion calls for the creation of a unified gas market. A 10-point plan recently provided by Germany and the Netherlands is mentioned in the Greek media.
According to Josef Sikela, the minister of industry for the Czech Republic, the energy ministers have agreed that the nations should begin purchasing gas from one another before the summer. They also decided on a different benchmark gas price. The Czech minister of industry also stated that the EU energy ministers wanted cooperative gas markets to be ready for the upcoming winter.
After the EU ministers' conference in Prague, Sikela declared that "We want to speed up the common markets and leverage the purchasing power of the entire EU economy to assure security of supply for next winter, which may be even more essential than this one."
Should the EU's new energy strategy actually materialize, the bloc will find itself at its starting point. As is well known, after the Second World War, European diplomats and government representatives teamed up to collectively use the continent's natural resources in the expectation that doing so would put an end to hostilities. Europeans are preparing to band together once more for shared access to energy resources in a similar effort today, hoping this will strengthen the EU's position in the face of international unpredictability.
"The EU must now defend itself"
The EU is not solely concentrating on a unified energy policy in the new era. Recently, there has been an increase in support in European capitals for the notion that the Union also needs a single defense plan.
"The week of February 24, when Russia invaded Ukraine, changed Europe, accelerating global structural transformations that had been simmering for years. Half a year later, it is clear there will be no turning back," underlines Angel Ubide. As stated by the columnist, "By pooling coal and steel production and then developing the common market, the EU was designed as a tool to counteract the military temptations of the European powers. The European Union, which lacked a budget and an army, used its expansion and influence to promote deregulation, trade deals, and offshore while advocating for fiscal restraint and globalization. Given the circumstances, it was the best course of action, but it led to a significant increase in the country's reliance on foreign markets and energy sources. Because of the resurgence of protectionism and industrial policy in the West, rising illiberal democracies, increasing Chinese assertiveness, and geopolitical re-regionalization, these premises are no longer valid. To adapt to this new environment, the European Union needs to be restructured."
According to Ubide, the EU's reconstruction must be built on three ideas: intra-European solidarity, defense against the external enemy, investment and resilience. "The so-called 'Brussels effect', the soft power that the EU relied on to be powerful and have a wide area of influence because of the size of its economy and the allure of membership, has lost some of its luster. The major forces in this new world are military strength, energy independence, and resistance to economic sanctions" adds the columnist from Spain.
Ubide also stresses: "Soft power is not enough, and neither is a fiscal discipline as an economic strategy. Defense against the external enemy requires three levers: abundant (and smart) public investment to foster technological resilience, energy independence and the climate change strategy, and military sufficiency; a robust economic policy framework where fiscal policy is not focused solely on debt reduction but complements monetary policy in managing the business cycle; and a credible currency, comparable to the dollar, that is accepted globally as a means of payment and a safe asset. Defense against the external enemy also requires a reform of the energy policy that’s fit for the new times. The defense against the external enemy requires a solidary energy union that diversifies energy sources and increases European interconnection, putting aside national interests–such as the French refusal to expand the MidCaT gas interconnection to continue protecting its industry."
The "Kyiv Security Concept"
European analysts believe that post-war Ukraine should be part of the planned common European defense strategy. Within this framework, analysts focus on Kiev's future "special defense relations" with the West.
Italian journalist Roberto Vivaldelli emphasizes that Western authorities and experts are skeptical about the proposal for Ukraine's formal membership in the Atlantic Alliance being granted soon. That Ukraine is at war is a significant challenge. The issue is foremost legal because the NATO treaty forbids affiliations with nations engaged in hostilities, and is also diplomatically and politically problematic.
According to Vivaldelli, "At least temporarily, there is a workable and acceptable alternative to (Ukraine's) formal membership (to NATO), and the Ukrainian administration has been collaborating with former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen on it. The Kyiv Security Concept is a strategy that seeks to create for Ukraine legally binding security guarantees from the alliance of Western nations to improve the country's capacity to fend off Russian attacks through extensive joint training, the provision of innovative weapon systems with a defensive purpose, and support for Ukraine's industrial advancement in defense."
The Kyiv Security Concept is based on the security cooperation agreement between the United States and Israel, two nations that view each other as close military and political friends and have substantial bilateral defense cooperation agreements but no formal treaty to back them up. Vivaldelli thinks that despite some skepticism from the Western diplomatic community toward the initiative, it might serve as a crucial springboard for establishing future relations between NATO and Ukraine.
*Dr Nikolaos Stelgias was born in Istanbul. He is an independent researcher, writer, historian and journalist. His doctorate is in the field of the modern Turkish political system (Panteion University, 2011). His latest book “The Ailing Turkish Democracy” was published by the Cambridge Scholars Publication in 2020. Dr. Stelgias was a correspondent of the newspaper "Kathimerini (Cyprus edition)" for Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot community from 2009 to 2021. Currently, Dr. Stelgias works at the Cyprus News Agency. Dr. Stelgias publishes in Turkish news articles and analyses on Cyprus and Greece.