Security of energy supply, and in particular of natural gas, is the first dimension of the energy union. Secure supplies of affordable energy to European citizens and companies require diversification of sources, suppliers and routes to ensure effective competition on the EU market.
To achieve this diversification, it is important to establish new strategic partnerships with diverse energy producing and transit countries and regions.
We have identified three priorities to increase our energy security and reduce our dependence on a single supplier; namely, redoubling our effort on the southern gas corridor, developing the LNG market in Europe and establishing a Mediterranean gas hub by relaunching the Euro-Mediterranean energy partnership.
In this context, the EU clearly recognises the importance of the Mediterranean region and its role within the Energy union strategy. It is developing an ambitious and comprehensive energy dialogue and cooperation with the southern and eastern Mediterranean countries, both at regional and bilateral levels.
On the regional level, we are establishing 'Platforms' for dialogue and cooperation in three priority areas; natural gas, integration of electricity systems and renewable energy and energy efficiency.
These platforms will be a light and effective instrument that, under the coordination of the Union for Mediterranean (UfM) co-presidencies, will bring together all relevant public and private stakeholders from across the Euro-Mediterranean region.
The gas platform was formally launched on 11 June 2015 with the objective of facilitating and promoting the production, transport and trade of natural gas in the Mediterranean region. This will bring benefits to all partners of the UfM, on both the north and the south rim, whether they are producers, exporters or importers of gas.
While this platform initiative rightly emphasises the regional dimension of our energy cooperation in the Mediterranean, bilateral cooperation remains crucial, especially with Algeria. The country is the largest in Africa and a partner of vital importance to the EU.
I am personally committed to stepping up our relations with Algeria, particularly as regards energy. This is a priority as mentioned in the Energy union Strategy. That is why I went to Algiers in May and met with Minister of Energy Yousfi and Minister of Foreign Affairs Lamamra to launch the Algeria-EU 'Political dialogue on energy'.
We agreed that this would focus on two areas, namely gas and renewable energy/energy efficiency. In addition, implementing initiatives will be developed in the coming months.
Algeria is the third largest supplier of gas to the EU after Russia and Norway and the EU is the greatest importer of Algerian gas. Algeria has historically been a very reliable gas supplier for the EU.
However, gas exports have been decreasing recently and represented in 2013 only 13 per cent of EU imports. This is due to several factors, including declining production, strongly increasing domestic demand and a drop in European demand. Nevertheless, gas resources in Algeria, including shale gas, are huge.
However, they remain largely unexplored and unexploited. There is a real need for investments in new gas exploration and production projects. So we will work together to identify the factors that hinder investments and propose measures to encourage investment.
Algeria also has a huge potential for renewable energy and has ambitious plans to develop it. The Algerian authorities have requested EU support and cooperation in several areas, such as institutional capacity building; improvement and implementation of the legislative and regulatory framework; vocational training; research and development and technology transfer.
The EU stands ready to support Algeria in implementing its national strategy for renewable energy and energy efficiency. The Commission, whose objective is to make Europe the world leaders in renewable energy, will work with its Algerian partners to identify needs and possible cooperation projects.
The political dialogue established during my visit will contribute to a reinforcement of the EU-Algeria energy partnership in the new context of energy security.
As a next step, two experts groups will be established in the coming weeks and a Business Forum will be organised in early 2016 in Algiers. This forum will bring together Algerian representatives with the European gas and renewable energy industry, to discuss what is necessary to facilitate new European investments in the Algerian energy sector.