This article was published in the website of the International Strategic Research Organization.
USAK Energy Security Research Center organized a conference in partnership with the Hungarian Embassy entitled “V4 Cooperation and Energy Security”. The keynote speaker was Hungary’s Ambassador to Turkey, Dr. János Hóvári. Presentations followed by Poland’s Deputy Head of Mission Piotr Krawczyk, Slovakia’s Deputy Head of Mission Peter Baček, and the Deputy Head of Mission of the Czech Republic Martin Ludojacky. The concluding remarks were made by the head of USAK’s Center for Energy Security Studies Hasan Selim Özertem.
Key priorities during the Hungarian presidency are the improvement of a North-South (rather than the well-established East-West) infrastructure, and the regional energy security, in particular the gas network. The energy security of Central Europe, and the EU as a whole, would be possible through the diversification of its energy partners. As such, joining forces and investing in interconnectors between the countries can greatly improve the bargaining position of the V4 when negotiating with Russia. The Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia individually constitute only a small share of the natural gas imports from Russia. However, jointly, they would be the second largest import of Russian gas, after Germany.
Also, the V4 is well aware of the high potential of liquid natural gas, and as such plans to invest in is dedicated at further investing in LNG terminals.
Poland’s deputy head of mission, Piotr Krawczyk, focused his presentation more on the role Turkey can play for the V4 group, and Europe. Cooperation should aim at defense, infrastructure and energy needs. Also Mr Krawczyk emphasized the role of gas networks within the energy security dimension. Essentially, the V4 aims to decrease its dependency on Russian resources. Cheaper gas opportunities are available through shale gas, and extending the interconnections throughout the region, as such bringing gas from Turkey through Bulgaria and Serbia, would remove some of the uncertainty Europe is facing in terms of energy security. Turkey should see the V4 as a unified gas market, instead of having to negotiate with the individual countries.
Deputy Head of Mission Peter Baček of Slovakia attributed the success of the V4 to the successful economic transformation of the region, above the EU average. The volume of trade between the V4 and Germany also exceeds the German and French trade volume. The economic prospects for the V4 look good, and Mr Baček says that the time for the region is still to come. In this context, the economic and political role of Turkey is key in the Western Balkans.
The Czech representative, Martin Ludojacky, shortly reiterated the remarks of his colleagues from Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, and urged for the finalization of the energy market, while taking into account the environmental policies and constraints. Mr Ludojacks also mentioned that the richest continent, when it comes to resources, in Africa.
USAK’s security policy expert Hasan Selim Özertem finally pointed out Europe faces both constraints and opportunities. The EU must coordinate more effectively on what they want in the realm of energy security as a bloc. The motivated regional cooperation of the V4 will positively serve EU interests. Also, the European Union needs to invest in the future, meaning that the energy needs of tomorrow need to be invested in today. For this, the political will is crucial and regional blocs can pressure the EU as a whole.
Concluding, the Visegrád Group, as a strong regional economic and policy bloc, seeks a diversification of it’s energy supplies, internationally and through the differentiation of energy sources domestically. The V4 is a strong economic cooperation which looks beyond its mere geographical area, and the EU, to further trade ties and serving the energy security needs of Europe.