Andriy Chubyk, Energy security expert of the Security Studies Program at the Foreign Policy Council “Ukrainian Prism”
Situation as of early 2021
The energy dimension of the Eastern Partnership is one of the four priority areas in Ukraine-EU relations, aimed at improving the function of the energy sector according to European standards and norms, as well as promoting low-carbon economic development. Its main components are the integration of energy infrastructure and markets, energy-efficient improvement, environmental protection, and joining forces for combatting climate change.
The multi-sector platform №3, which features panels on energy, transport, environment, and climate change — as well as the Working Group ‘Environment, Climate Change, and Energy Security’ within the Civil Society Forum — is the practical dimension of cooperation for the Eastern Partnership.
Working Programs on energy—including an excerpt from the preliminary paper on ’20 Deliverables for 2020′ in the energy-related part — were the focal point of the documents. As of early 2021, a new framework document setting principles or extending the previously-existing principles of cooperation in the Eastern Partnership has not been put forth.
Energy relations within the Eastern Partnership take place at the governmental level, as well as through the mechanisms of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum. Government meetings at the level of the relevant state institutions in many cases became the platforms for discussion of the Eastern Partnership member states’ progress in a multinational format, as well as some new initiatives of the European Commission institutions (such as the Directorate General for Energy, European Union External Action Service, etc.).
Public organizations united in the Working Group framework operate more actively in an effort to prepare responses to European and domestic authorities’ initiatives, as well as to participate in the formation of proposals, resolutions, and appeals.
In addition, some civil society organizations’ members took part in the government meetings as Civil Society Forum representatives and helped to represent member states’ interests in the EU.
The principles of further cooperation between the EU and the Eastern Partnership countries on energy are described in the Joint Declaration: more specifically, one can find there mentions of the anticipated outcome of participation in the European Green Course, the Paris Climate Agreement, and the restructuring of national economies according to the principles of sustainable development.
2020 was marked by most events switching to an online format because of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent restriction of cross-border travel. At the same time, energy cooperation became even more relevant, given the EU’s decision to achieve climate neutrality and revise energy development goals by 2030.
In the first quarter of 2020, Ukraine was actively preparing for the introduction of the green energy transition concept, but after government changes the situation also changed dramatically and all efforts were focused on addressing current energy sector challenges related to falling consumption, prices, deficit of RES payments, etc.
Political, security, and economic factors
In the energy context, the Eastern Partnership program is more of a framework of the political dimension around which some specific EU structures build their work. However, the interaction takes place primarily in the framework of Annex XXVII to the Association Agreement and the Memorandum of Understanding on Strategic Energy Partnership (updated on November 24, 2016). The strategic goal in the Ukrainian energy policy agenda is to achieve full integration into the single European energy space, and practical steps to achieve this are taken through the Energy Community mechanisms, namely through the implementation of the adapted European energy acquis and the EU4Energy project.
In 2019-2020, Russian natural gas transit became the largest security challenge for the energy relations between Ukraine and the EU. Despite the signing of a new 5-year contract, the security component of relations remains one of the most important, as a long-term balance of power between key players, namely Ukraine and Russia, as well as Ukraine and the EU, was not achieved. However, the Eastern Partnership currently has no security tools that could be used to reach a resolution.
2020 marked an intensive growth of Ukraine’s role as a regional center for transportation and storage of natural gas; for the first time in many years, the level of underground gas storage facilities reached a high filling record (28.3 billion m3). At the same time, a significant part of gas (11.2 billion m3) was pumped in a special “customs warehouse” mode, which, together with the “short haul” pumping tariff, formed a list of benefits for working in Ukraine for foreign and domestic customers. Such cooperative success became possible primarily due to the separation of the gas transmission system operator and the implementation of the European standards in its work.
Forecast scenarios for the development of relations by 2025
The energy dimension of the Eastern Partnership remains primarily a bilateral relations prerogative, while at the level of the relevant EU institutions and national states it is only an area of responsibility and reports.
The basic scenario for the development of relations by 2025 will include maintaining the main formats that existed before 2020, namely holding quarterly meetings at the governmental level on the thematic areas of cooperation, with representatives of each participating country reporting on public policy progress, as well as joint projects and initiatives. European Commission representatives will also use such meetings to inform about the results of their project implementation: in particular, on EU4Energy, EU4Climate, RES development, security issues, etc.
NGOs will use quarterly meetings as a platform to present their public position, as well as to convey joint statements and proposals to representatives of the EU and the Eastern Partnership countries.
The Eastern Partnership will not provide additional commitments on low-carbon development, especially in joint declarations following the summits of heads of state. The EU will maintain the formal coherence of the Eastern Partnership energy policy for all countries, although current projects, such as EU4Energy, will be administered by various institutions.
The EU decides to divide the energy dimension of the Eastern Partnership into two areas; for the associate partner-countries that declare their goal to integrate into the single European energy space, and for countries with a limited number of cooperation programs.
The European Green Course is becoming a new long-term goal for the Eastern Partnership countries, especially for associated partners, and the EU is extending its support instruments to them.
Ukraine uses the existing contractual framework to promote sectoral integration: most notably, joining the continental European energy system of the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E) and natural gas (ENTSO-G), the introduction of relevant network codes, joint auction platforms, and balancing and emergency support. At the same time, Moldova takes similar steps in their electricity sector, and this will allow the country to implement the Agreement on the terms of future synchronization by following an already agreed upon schedule.
To the Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration of Ukraine:
- to hold a coordination meeting with field-specific deputies of the relevant ministries (energy, environment, economy, regional development, etc.); to determine short- and medium-term action plans related to the Eastern Partnership program; and to form a common roadmap based on that.
To the Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration of Ukraine together with the Ministry of Energy of Ukraine:
– to bring Ukraine’s position in line with the European Green Course; to implement the main stages of the national energy policy and possess the necessary resources to achieve this, which will allow for further substantive dialogue with the European Commission.
The Ministry of Energy is the governmental institution responsible for shaping energy policy, which includes identifying the ways to carry out its stated goals. To form a realistic plan of relations by 2025, it is essential to prepare and discuss an analysis of the current energy situation, including how to overcome existing challenges, and any changes in the relevant markets — including the expected cost of reforms, possible sources of funds, and expected consequences of said reforms — with the public.
To the Working Group “Environment, Climate Change, and Energy Security” of the Ukrainian National Platform of the Civil Society Forum:
– to initiate a comprehensive project for studying the impact of future energy policy in the European Green Course framework on relations with the EU, neighboring countries, international institutions, and partners.