Friedbert Pflueger on Energy Security - the Global Strategic Competition
Prof. Dr. phil. Friedbert Pflueger is Director of the European Centre for Energy and Resource Security (EUCERS) at King’s College London, one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in Europe. He has previously served as a personal assistant and press-secretary to former German President Richard von Weizsäcker (1981-89), as a member of the German Bundestag (1990-2006) and Deputy Minister of Defence in the first Merkel Government (2005/06). Since September 2009 he is Professor for International Relations at the Department of War Studies, King’s College London. On the occasion of the 3rd International Workshop of EUCERS, with European Commissioner Günther Oettinger as keynote speaker, Tillmann Dietrich, editor of the World Security Network, interviewed Prof. Dr. Pflueger in London:
Tillmann Dietrich: Why did you - and your colleagues - establish the European Centre for Energy and Resource Security? What is the main purpose of this Centre?
Friedbert Pflueger: Within the next 20 years the EU’s dependence on imports of energy will grow to approximately 75% - despite of all measures concerning energy efficiency or renewable energies. The reason for this is an ever growing demand and the limits of our own European resources. The situation potentially creates dependencies and conflicts. EUCERS deals with the European, foreign policy and security dimensions of energy policy. In light of the growing world population and the substantial rise in demand for energy and raw materials in emerging economies, competition for the limited resources of our world is intensifying. The International Energy Agency (IEA) concludes in its latest annual report that global energy policies are not sustainable, neither regarding the requirements of climate change nor global security of supply. Against this background there is an impending re-nationalisation, indeed an energy and raw material imperialism.
Increasingly the strategic interests of countries (not only the markets) determine energy and commodity policies. Just look at the way China has positioned its state corporations in recent years in Africa, Latin America or Central Asia, which have energy or natural resources.
In addition, China has recently exploited its factual production and export monopoly of rare earths in a political move. A diplomatic dispute with Japan has prompted China to de facto ban exports to Tokyo, although Beijing itself is increasingly becoming dependent on energy and raw material imports and is more concerned than ever about growing threats to supply security.
One may also turn to the North Pole, where the Russians demonstratively hoisted their flag on the seabed in 2007. Arctic fleets are set up and manoeuvres held. Additionally there is the threat of terrorists and cyber attacks on trade routes and so-called critical energy infrastructure. The water debate will also be put forward in the coming years.
All of this has enormous foreign and security policy implications. Analysing these developments and identifying how impending resource conflicts can be resolved peacefully is an important task for the EU and its member states.
Tillmann Dietrich: You had invited the European Commissioner for energy Guenther Oettinger to speak at King’s College London on February 10th. How do you want to influence EU’s Energy Policy?
Friedbert Pflueger: Well, I believe Guenther Oettinger – since he took his new office a year ago – has effectively worked within the EU Commission to bring about a common Energy Policy for Europe. This was highlighted by the result of the European Council on February 4th, where the heads of government agreed upon a very ambitious agenda. The legal basis for this is the EU Treaty of Lisbon, which paves the way for a common Energy Policy that deserves the name.
So we wanted to learn more about Guenther’s plans – but, you are right, we also confronted him with the views of experts from academia, business and politics. We are happy that prominent experts participated in our panels and that our students gladly take the chance to learn about practical energy policy and business. His speech was welcomed in the Auditorium (Edmond J Safra Theatre) by about 200 people mostly with approval. (click here to see more on EUCERS Workshop with Guenther Oettinger)
One of our main aims is to gather - through our studies, our round tables and workshops - scientific analysis and monitoring, which we will make available to European and national institutions in the energy and commodities field, but also for associations or companies.
We want to make sure that our research and teaching does not take place in an ivory tower and fosters a dialogue on energy policy in practice. This will be fruitful for both sides. I want, for example, our students to do internships in the EU or European energy companies and to work on their PhD theses on topics of practical relevance, in order to prepare for careers in the energy and commodities field. At EUCERS we have now the first PhD students.
Tillmann Dietrich: After many years of successful work in politics you now started an academic career. Why?
Friedbert Pflueger: After my year of research and teaching at Harvard thirty years ago and after my Ph.D. in Bonn, I have been thinking of joining the academic world. Then I got the offer from the then Governing Mayor of Berlin (and later President of Germany), Richard von Weizsäcker, to become his assistant, and later represent my home town, Hanover, in the Bundestag. But I have never stopped publishing articles and books – and now I am happy to be back. I am presently working on a new book, which will be published next year. But apart from research and writing it is a particular pleasure to discuss with students. To be able to do this at King’s is an honour and I am grateful to the Head of the Department of War Studies, Professor Mervyn Frost, who gave me that chance.
Tillmann Dietrich: How is EUCERS financed?
Friedbert Pflueger: King's College London provides us with an office in the university buildings on Strand and with the appropriate equipment, as well as with the facilities for large and small events. It covers the basic costs. We are an integral part of the Department of War Studies and get all the necessary support and advice.
In addition, we fund our research projects and conferences through external funding. With the support of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, for example, last year we organised a workshop on European energy security, with Jürgen Grossmann, CEO of RWE, as the keynote speaker.
Its British offshoot RWE nPower and the Austrian Embassy supported us in carrying out a further workshop on 'Turkey as an energy hub for Europe', with the keynote speech by former Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel, who is - as a member of RWE's board - an expert on the questions around the 'Southern Corridor'.
For this year we have gotten support from the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Standard Chartered Bank, Enel, BP, Roland Berger Strategy Consultants and the European Commission. I am glad that King’s College London helps in getting the necessary funds – and I am most grateful to everybody who helps us to run our activities. Of course, the precondition for accepting funds is the complete independence of our research.
Tillmann Dietrich: After the workshop on Energy Security for Europe until 2050 with Commissioner Oettinger, what is the next on your agenda?
Friedbert Pflueger: On March 15th we will hold an expert roundtable on Shale Gas, chaired by my colleague Petra Dolata, who is our Research Director. Other projects include a workshop on rare earth metals, two studies on the so-called Southern Corridor and on Carbon Capture Storage (CCS). Petra Dolata, our research-director and Frank Umbach, an internationally recognized energy-expert, will play a decisive role in bringing about and coordinating our research activities. We already have the first Ph.D. students and hopefully soon scholarships. We soon shall have our own newsletter and “EUCERS – Strategy Papers”. So our Centre is growing and contributing to the academic life at King’s College London.