Posted on May 31, 2012

The time has come for a new Barcelona Process that would help revitalize the Euro-Med area’s economies, a key speaker told a major energy conference in Athens on Tuesday.

“There are too many advantages to be secured by working together and too many risks to be run by failing to so do so,” energy consultant Roudi Baroudi told the 2012 Mediterranean Oil and Gas Conference in Athens, Greece. “The European Union and the European Commission deserve all the credit in the world for having had the vision to initiate Barcelona as it laid the groundwork for so many subsequent accomplishments. But the best is yet to come, especially if we grasp the opportunity to intensify our partnership.”

Roudi Baroudi

The 1995 Barcelona Declaration was instrumental in broadening areas of cooperation among more than two dozen countries, both inside and outside the EU, which border on – or have strong interests in – the Mediterranean. The resultant Euro-Mediterranean Partnership was given three core objectives: maintaining stability by pursuing political and security dialogue; increasing regional prosperity via economic and financial cooperation, as well as freer trade; and promoting rapprochement among peoples via social and cultural exchanges.

The Mediterranean Oil and Gas Conference is organized under the hospices of Greece’s Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change, with the cooperation of the Arab-Greek Chamber of Commerce. The event has a Euro-Med focus but also addresses a broader international audience, bringing together senior government and business leaders, financiers and energy experts from several regions, including Russia and the Gulf Cooperation Council states, as well as Caspian and Mediterranean countries.

The proceedings this week focused on the security of energy supply in Europe, with emphasis on recent developments in the major pipelines bringing oil and gas from Russia and Azerbaijan, opportunities for bi- and multilateral cooperation, and pressing issues regarding the energy industry.

Stressing the shared interests of some 450 million people in 22 countries with direct stakes in how the Mediterranean is developed and managed in such fields as energy, the environment, fisheries, and tourism, Baroudi led his audience through a step-by-step explanation why international cooperation is particular important for the oil and gas industry.

From occasional bouts of economic and/or political instability to the socioeconomic benefits of energy security and the need to reduce ecological damage, it just makes more sense to work together, said Baroudi, who is president of the Doha-based consultancy Energy and Environment Holding and also serves as secretary-general of the World Energy Council’s Lebanon Member Committee.

“Some 70 percent of Europe’s petroleum consumption and 30 percent of world trade passes through the Mediterranean,” he noted, and both opportunities and hazards can only increase as exploration and extraction of the region’s under-sea hydrocarbons expand in the coming years. 

“Only by continuing and expanding our cooperation can we design and implement the comprehensive steps that will both keep pace with growing demand for energy and protect the environment for future generations,” Baroudi added, “and this has to mean developing alternative energy sources as well. The region has tremendous solar and wind potential, for example, but to profit from these and other alternative sources, we need to increase investment in green energy.”

Overall, he argued, energy security and affordable supplies are nothing less than crucial to both economic growth and social development, and achieving these goals without undue risks demands a broadening and strengthening of Euro-Med cooperation and coordination. He also encouraged the United States to play a responsible role by helping to contain and reduce international tensions over resources in the Mediterranean, in particular by helping to delineate maritime boundaries in a manner consistent with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.              

All of these objectives, Baroudi said, would be made more obtainable by the promulgation and implementation of a “Barcelona II declaration on energy and the environment”.

“Restating the values of joint ownership, dialogue and cooperation would refocus Euro-Med policy integration at all levels,” he enthused, “fueling peace and prosperity for all members.”