Europe in the World

Reports and papers

Rethinking European energy relations in times of crisis

28 Jun 2023 - 11:54
REPower Security

This report is published by GLOBSEC in cooperation with the Clingendael Institute and Oxford Analytica.

The energy crisis has sparked a rethink of how Europe defines and prioritises its energy security. The strategic importance of energy and its interconnected nature at physical, political and trade levels makes the interaction between energy security, security and foreign policy inevitable. Russia using energy as a weapon and the repositioning of Europe in a world of great power competition, where climate impacts increasingly hit, has changed energy interests and how they relate to security.

A topic that has not yet received much attention is the problem that new fossil exporters can equally pressure the European Union and that their overreliance on revenues from fossil extraction can be a security risk in itself, particularly in undemocratic, authoritarian petrostates.

High fossil energy prices have led to protests and rising tensions in the past and today, and petrostates may try to maximise power whilst still having insecurity over their (future) income sources, making them unstable too. For Europe to reduce security risks related to dependencies on fossil energy, it is necessary to switch more rapidly from oil and gas to renewable energy sources (RES) and higher electrification levels. Moreover, managing the external energy relationships carefully is imperative when dependencies still exist. At the same time, if the EU is serious about its green leader role, for which Brussels has advocated for decades, supporting decarbonisation in third countries, especially those heavily dependent on fossil fuels, should be at the core of a different and more elaborate energy diplomacy. In this context, this report aims at bridging considerations on petrostate dependencies, sketching out the key risks these imply, and post-fossil alliances, with a focus on how low-carbon energy relations could help overcoming such risks.

This paper suggests that the ongoing global energy shift creates momentum for the EU to become a driver of change within the new, multilayered energy security concept. By developing long-term strategies targeting third countries and moving from a fossil-interdependent and risky paradigm, the EU can use its foreign policy instruments to become an exporter of technological, normative, and standard models of the new concept of energy security. However, for this to happen, the EU needs to be proactive regarding shifting energy relations to include a sustainability dimension that enhances third countries’ decarbonisation ability.

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