Former Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel: Energy Security most complex issue for Europe

Posted in Europe | 12-Jan-11 | Author: Annette Prandzioch

The independent World Security Network Foundation UK (WSN) hosted a discussion dinner in the Carlton Club in London in honor of former Austrian Chancellor Dr. Wolfgang Schuessel and WSN International Advisory Board Member Prof. Dr. Friedbert Pflueger who launched as Executive Director the new European Centre for Energy and Resource Security (EUCERS) at the King's College Department of War Studies, attended as well by the Ambassadors of Austria and Germany.

Energy security is a hot topic for all European countries and the aims of this WSN event was to better understand, raise awareness, and develop solutions for the problems facing both governments and the public.

Dr. Annette Prandzioch, Vice President Energy Security WSN, interviewed Dr. Wolfgang Schüssel about the hot topics of energy security in Europe and the demanding pipeline projects.

Former Austrian Chancellor Dr. Wolfgang Schüssel (right) was the guest of honor of a dinner about energy security hosted by…
Former Austrian Chancellor Dr. Wolfgang Schüssel (right) was the guest of honor of a dinner about energy security hosted by the World Security Network Foundation UK in the Carlton Club in London , here with Dr. Annette Prandzioch, WSN Vice President Energy Security, and Tillmann Dietrich, Editor of the World Security Network.

Annette Prandzioch: How highly does energy security rank as an issue for Europe?

Wolfgang Schüssel: The energy needs of some 5 million Europeans have to be provided for so it is a very important issue. It is also one of the most complex issues facing Europe, as it involves overlapping environmental and economic issues, including RND, renewables, CO 2 reduction, budgets etc.

Annette Prandzioch:The race for gas and oil in central Asia is described by some as the great game mark 2. Is Russia winning?

Wolfgang Schüssel: Russia is the biggest supplier to Europe. Russia is a reliable partner, a serious partner, and sometimes a tough partner. All in all Russia will remain the biggest supplier but Europe should also look to diversifying sources of supply for instance in the Kurdish part of Iraq. Iran has ample supplies but obviously that is not accessible at present.

Annette Prandzioch: If you were a betting man, how highly would you rate the possibility of Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear installations within the next 12 months?

Wolfgang Schüssel: I am not a betting man and I consider that the possibility of a strike is a cause for great concern - you can't bomb away the problem with Iran but must negotiate and should continue to keep up the pressure on Iran by means of economic sanctions. There is hope that in the future they may become a reliable partner.

Annette Prandzioch: Russia owns half the Baumgarten hub in Austria - some commentators think this is a cause for concern as those assets could be used to exert political influence - is that a concern you share?

Wolfgang Schüssel: The Baumgarten hub has an extremely important distribution function in Europe, particularly in the Czech Republic and Germany. If we want to use Baumgarten as a hub for further distribution it is reasonable to talk to Russia. I think concerns over Russian involvement are over exaggerated. What should be in the mind of commentators is the need for additional pipelines if Europe is to be supplied with all its energy needs and we need gas from both Russia and from the South. And of course an important function of Nabucco is the reversibility of gas flows, so that if need be Turkey can receive supplies from Europe. This should provide reassurance.

Annette Prandzioch: Are you concerned that that the South Stream project could hinder Nabucco?

Wolfgang Schüssel: South Stream and Nabucco are in competition but I consider that Nabucco is the cheaper and more effective project . I don't see any political necessity in having competing pipelines - Nabucco is a good, feasible and important project.

Annette Prandzioch: Do you have confidence in the Central Asian republics as long term reliable partners for Europe in light of the fact that Russia considers itself as having a droit de regard in the region?

Wolfgang Schüssel: It is a matter for the Central Asian countries as to who is better equipped and better able to be their partner and this is an economic question. The EU will bring advantages in terms of being economic partner and it would be a mistake if some central Asian Governments move away from the EU but I don't see there being a conflict between Russia and the EU.

Annette Prandzioch: Does the China- Turkmen pipeline adversely affect Nabucco's prospects?

Wolfgang Schüssel: Competition is always good, both in terms of price, commitment and partnership. The EU will be one of the most important partners of the Central Asian Republics. However, to ensure that we are important partners we need to be present in the region and should be pushing our own agenda.

Annette Prandzioch: Do you support supply of Nabucco with Russian gas via Blue Stream?

Wolfgang Schüssel: Blue Stream is there and if there is enough gas in Russia and we need additional amounts and quantities and if the Russians think it's feasible, then why not?

Annette Prandzioch: With the high levels of US shale gas production together with a surge in global LNG liquefaction, are new pipelines still as crucial to Europe's energy security?

Wolfgang Schüssel: This involves questions of transport and what is more effective. I consider that a pipeline structure is economically feasible and easy to maintain. However shale gas is more risky - I doubt that shipping will remain as cheap as it is now and there are problems shipping around Africa. If the markets demand it, pipelines will continue to be built and I think that as long as there continues to be a supply from Iraq and Azerbaijan that will be the rationale for Nabucco to be built.

Annette Prandzioch: And will Nabucco ever be built and if so when?

Wolfgang Schüssel: I do hope that Nabucco will be built. It is one of the most advanced and feasible pipeline proposals. The time frame should be in about four years. And of course it can be done in stages so that there is no need to have it working at full capacity right at outset.