Panel recommends diversification of energy sources
STA, 5 June 2019 - A high-profile panel on energy was held on Wednesday as part of the Three Seas Initiative Summit, with the participants pointing out to diversification of sources, decreasing dependence on one source of energy and investments in expansion of renewable energy as the most important measures in the field.
The panel was opened by Slovenian Infrastructure Minister Alenka Bratušek, who said that this year would be important as the country was adopting national energy and climate plans that will determine decarbonisation and energy efficiency policies.
Discussing the challenges in energy infrastructure, she said that "one can opt for more renewables, for more or less nuclear power, no coal and oil or natural gas," but the fact was that the supply would remain diverse due to a number of factors.
US Secretary of Energy Rick Perry was open about his country's interests, saying that the US would share its energy knowledge with the Three Seas Initiative countries to strengthen their energy security and increase their energy diversity.
You should not be "restricted to just one energy source, bound to just one nation for your energy needs", he said, stressing that the US was a competitive alternative to Russia when it came to liquefied natural gas (LNG), supporting multiple routes to deliver energy across Europe.
"We oppose using energy to coerce any country, we believe that obtaining energy from US is a highly attractive choice," said Perry, who also believes that it is essential that Europe prioritise its own energy projects.
As fro LNG, Croatian Minister of Environment and Energy Tomislav Ćorić said that the decision to build a terminal on the island of Krk was the right one, adding that the country was fully oriented towards a low-carbon economy and renewables.
"We are fully devoted to the production coming from wind, solar and hydro power," he said, adding that diversification was a very important tool for achieving energy independence of the twelve countries of the Three Seas Initiative, and one of the most important agendas of the EU.
Piotr Naimski, the Polish government's representative for energy infrastructure, noted that Poland was "still almost totally dependent on one monopolistic company which provides us with gas, but we are on the way to change this."
According to him, Poland needs more security, diversity and reliability of networks, and it plans to get connected to with Norway and to build a floating terminal in 2025 to gain supply from different sources and routes and start a competitive gas market.
Miguel Berger of the German Federal Foreign Office noted that Germany was cooperating with the US, as it would have two LNG terminals in Germany, adding that LNG was welcome in Europe, but stressing that it "has to be market driven".
"We reject sanctions in energy relations with Russia. There is a serious and real demand for energy and we want to develop our energy relations with Russia," he said, dismissing the notion that Russia was the only supplier for Germany since it accounts for only 40% of supplies.
Martin Novšak of the Slovenian power company GEN Energija discussed nuclear energy, stressing that the joint Slovenian-Croatian plant NEK had a low-carbon production, operated successfully and was stable, which was an important factor.
The company will also be investing in hydro power plants and in photovoltaic energy, as well as in a second unit of NEK, he said, while pointing to the importance of the price of capital, noting that Chinese capital was free, and European very expensive.
Robert Krklec of HEP said that the Croatian national power company would be investing heavily in electrification, energy efficiency and renewable sources, including hydro power plants, photovoltaics and wind power plants.
"HEP is going to get to 50% of renewables in the next three years," Krklec said, while also pointing to consumers, who will have an active role in the future in determining trends and selling auxiliary services to power companies.
Representing the Slovenian national power grid operator ELES, Uroš Salobir said that the 2050 targets were very challenging, adding that as "coal is slowly vanishing from the table, we will have a huge problem of flexibility."
The options are natural gas, dispersed action of consumers, distributed generation, platforms linked across the borders and decentralised solutions, but this requires good cooperation between the political and technical level, he concluded.
STA, 5 June 2019 - Innovation stimulates economic growth, while infrastructure plays a key role in facilitating connectivity in the Three Seas region, which still lags behind Western Europe, heard participants of a panel debate held as part of the Three Seas Initiative summit in Ljubljana on Wednesday.
"Innovation stimulates economic growth, creates new and better jobs, enables social mobility, combating climate change and poverty, and improves overall wealth," said Bulgarian Economy Minister Emil Karanikolov.
According to him, new technologies have the potential to bring about significant social, economic and environmental benefits.
He believes the challenges faced by this region, such as rapid technological development and changed economic relations, require active work and joint policies that address day-to-day problems of entrepreneurs and researchers.
Ian Brzezinski of the US think tank Atlantic Council, who moderated the debate, concluded that this was a region of high economic growth but to sustain this high growth innovation will be crucial.
"Infrastructure is key, because it facilitates connectivity, it facilitates the movement of products and above all of ideas ... Robust, modern, efficient infrastructure can facilitate innovation," he said.
Noting that the world was in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution, he said it was critical for this region to remain at the forefront of this revolution.
Sonja Šmuc, general manager of the Slovenian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS), called for innovation not only in industry but also in government.
She agreed that infrastructure is important. "Some say that with internet you don't need roads that much any more. That's not true. We still travel, we still have to exchange ideas in person."
In 2015, there was talk about suspending the Schengen area to protect the EU borders and back then it was calculated in Brussels that each truck that waits a minute at the border costs 2 euros, she noted.
"If we turn to the Western Balkans - two countries are in the EU, six are not - and look at the long lines at the borders. How much money is lost there," she said, pointing to "illogical processes that make us poorer".
She believes this is just a matter of decision. "Infrastructure is important, but infrastructure that is connected, and with IT solutions available we can achieve much better results."
Aleš Cantarutti, state secretary at Ministry of Economic Development and Technology, called for investments in society 5.0 - the transfer of the concepts such as internet of things, artificial intelligence and big data into every-day life. These technologies could be used also to tackle the problem of ageing population, he believes.
Mark Pleško, CEO and co-founder of the Slovenian high-tech company Cosylab, said that everyone wanted to have a monopoly position. Innovation is one way to get it, but until there are other, quicker ways such as cronyism or even corruption, people will chose the easiest way.
He called for opening of the markets and fighting dishonest business practices.
Both Cantarutti and Šmuc agreed that the Three Seas initiative could further strengthen innovation by creating a platform for more integrated cooperation of companies and a fund that would financially support projects to reduce the risks of failure that prevent a potential breakthrough of many innovative entrepreneurs.
STA, 5 June 2019 - President Borut Pahor and Foreign Minister Miro Cerar took the opportunity of the Three Seas Initiative summit taking place in Ljubljana for a number of bilateral meetings. Pahor met the presidents of Latvia and Poland, and Cerar met his Polish counterpart.
Pahor decorated Latvia's President Raimonds Vejonis with the Order of Exceptional Merit for strengthening bilateral relations and bilateral cooperation with a view to promote Europe's common and safe future.
In turn, Vejonis bestowed on Pahor the Latvian cross for strengthening bilateral relations, political dialogue and friendship between Slovenia and Latvia, Pahor's office said in a press release.
Pahor also met Polish President Andrzej Duda, with whom he opened an exhibition on Polish ethnographer Emil Korytko (1813-1839) at the National Assembly.
Foreign Minister Cerar and his Polish counterpart Jacek Czaputowicz hailed the political and economic relations between Slovenia and Poland.
They discussed cooperation within the Three Seas Initiative, sharing a view it could enhance the development of transport and energy infrastructure in Central Europe, which was key to the region's economic development.
Another topic Cerar and Czaputowicz discussed was cooperation within the EU, with the focus on EU enlargement.
STA, 5 June 2019 - The presidential panel at the summit of the Three Seas Initiative, which began in Ljubljana on Wednesday, was marked by calls for a move from words to action as part of this Central European cooperation project focusing on multiplying transport, energy, and digital interconnections.
The host of the meeting and moderator of the panel, Slovenian President Borut Pahor, started the discussion by pointing out that the 12 countries participating will have concrete proposals to present as the new team of the European Commission shortly takes office.
"It will be a kind of common list of goals presented and the Commission will be invited to consider them seriously," said Pahor, who has described the summit as one of the largest political and business meetings ever held in Slovenia.
Croatian President Kolinda Grabar Kitarović, who was one of the initiators of the Three Seas, highlighted the fast progress of the initiative since what was only an explorative first meeting in 2015. "Today we are forming the fund of the initiative which means it is becoming a truly practical initiative," she said.
Grabar Kitarović, who said the initiative was looking to help achieve true cohesion in the whole of the EU but also beyond, "in the Atlantic space because we very much value the partnership of the US and of course of Germany, which has also become the partner of the initiative".
While German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier will be joining the presidents for dinner tonight ahead of the summit tomorrow, US Secretary of Energy Rick Perry participated in the panel.
Underlining that time for talk is over, Perry said that the US supported the EU and "efforts to create this energy union, to better integrate Europe in these energy markets and improve energy security".
"It's time for us to be taking true action ... to send the message ... around the globe that we are going to be working closely together. That the Three Seas Initiative member nations are ready and willing and that we are going to meet our objectives."
He swore that the US would never use energy for political coercion, earning an applause from the audience. "It is for these reasons that we continue to oppose the North Stream 2 pipeline. The pipeline will weaken the energy security of Europe and the sovereignty of its nations, especially Ukraine."
Noting that the 75th anniversary of liberation of Europe will be commemorated tomorrow, Perry said he could think of "few greater ways to honour the US's commitment to defend and support freedom in Europe than continuing to work together for the betterment and prosperity of our nations and our people".
Polish President Andrzej Duda said it was time to move from analysis to action and illustrated that the journey from north to south eastern Europe takes days, while in the west it takes hours, adding that this affects not only travel and tourism but also economic and social relations in this part of Europe.
It is thus key that the countries pursue coherent investment policies to overcome transportation gaps. He announced that the initiative was launching in Ljubljana the Three Seas Fund.
"Poland and Romania have inaugurated the functioning of the fund. We see it as a new sources of financing for infrastructure investments. This will be a practical dimension of the Three Seas Initiative cooperation. A tool to make our plans and dreams come true."
Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto stressed the need to come out as a winner in a what were times of turbulent global political and economic change that he felt made it fair to speak of a new world order.
Quick and common sense decisions will be key, said Szijjarto, who argued Central Europe "is and will be the engine of growth in Europe".
Stressing the need to address infrastructure shortcomings in the region, he said energy diversification must become more than just a word, with Hungary also being very vulnerable energy-wise.
"If we cannot change this infrastructure situation, then my country will be in a position again to engage in a long-term cooperation with Russia when it comes to gas supply," Szijjarto said.
Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid also noted the Commission's support, echoing Grabar Kitarović, as well as Bulgarian President Rumen Radev. She also hailed Slovenia's decision to bring innovation into the debate alongside the three main focuses of the initiative. She noted this was key to making transport and energy "not only competitive but also clean".
Kaljulaid, who is also in favour of dedicating attention to environmental topics as part of the initiative, meanwhile highlighted the need to leverage the private sector. "We politicians, we can start communication ... but nothing we create is durable unless you take over, then it is sustainable and durable, if you the private sectors of the initiative work together."
Bulgarian President Radev expressed satisfaction that the meeting in Ljubljana is not attended only by heads of states but also by government representatives, agencies, business representatives and strategic partners, such as the US, represented by Perry.