Southeast European countries should co-operate to form a regional energy market, with financial and technical assistance from the EU and Russia, participants at a Southeast European energy forum in Zagreb agreed on Sunday (June 24th). The event, hosted by Croatian President Stipe Mesic, was attended by his counterparts from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania and Serbia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin also participated, as did representatives of the Greek and Slovenian governments and the European Commission.
The heads of state stressed the need to diversify energy sources, invest in renewable resources, and expand the network of oil and gas pipelines in the region. Croatia’s Mesic also proposed signing a treaty that would regulate the conduct of those in a global energy market.
Energy should be equally distributed to all who are using it, and the energy business should be transparent and based on principles of the market economy. Mesic said. As all Southeast European countries want to modernise their energy market and harmonise it with EU regulations, it is necessary to co-operate regionally, he said.
“If the countries of Southeast Europe want to become a hub for energy business and projects, we must be aware that we can only achieve this through mutual co-operation in the region,” Mesic said. He also spoke out against using energy as a means to achieve political goals.
Putin’s presence at the forum was a focus of media attention. It marked the first time a Russian president paid a visit to Croatia since the country gained independence. Although his stay in Zagreb was brief, he had the opportunity to discuss bilateral relations and regional issues with Mesic and Prime Minister Ivo Sanader.
The Russian leader pledged at the energy summit that his country is ready to co-operate with Southeast European states and would strive to ensure access to energy resources and deliveries to all countries in the region. He said Russia is interested in both the sale of natural gas to these markets and transit opportunities in the Balkans.
Russia is preparing many energy projects for this region, Putin said, adding that he hoped Russian firms would encounter trust, transparency, rule of law and equal opportunities. Gazprom’s project to build a pipeline under the Black Sea is a good model to follow, he added.