Dear Ministers, dear Ambassador, dear participants,
I am very happy to see the progress presented today on gas projects in Albania and in the region. Especially, progress on the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) and the plans for an Ionian Adriatic Pipeline is of crucial importance.
Those corridors are highly strategic both for the European Union and for the countries of the Western Balkans.
For the EU, it is critical that gas from new suppliers can flow to Europe through the Southern Gas Corridor and the Trans Adriatic Pipeline.
With the Energy Union, one of the 10 priorities of the Juncker Commission, we aim at making energy more secure, affordable and sustainable. The Energy Union has identified the Southern Gas Corridor as a key contribution to the EU's energy security, by bringing Caspian and Central Asian gas resources to European markets.
The Ionian Adriatic Pipeline would multiply the benefits of the Southern Gas Corridor and the TAP, by allowing the gasification of Croatia, Bosnia-Hercegovina and Montenegro. At the same time, it would give those countries and Albania access to the forthcoming LNG terminal in Croatia.
The interest and benefits are clear both for the EU and Western Balkan countries. Diversification and security of energy sources are of strategic importance for the countries of the region. Looking no further than the last few months in Albania, the overreliance on hydropower has had costly consequences this summer. The region, like the EU, needs to be able to switch supply channels depending on financial or political cost.
What I take away from today's discussion is that the region is improving its regulatory and market framework to attract investment in gas networks, power generation and transmission networks. There is a lot of confidence and a lot of political support to go ahead.
And in many ways, what we are discussing today is not only about energy supply. The whole point of the Energy Community, which has given the Ionian Adriatic Pipeline the status of Project of Mutual Interest, is for the parties to adhere to the main elements of the European energy policy, in a process that brings them progressively closer to the EU.
The gasification of the Western Balkans makes the countries at the same time more inter-connected and closer to European standards. In this historical perspective, the reform of the energy sector and the emergence of a regional energy market connected to the EU energy market are crucial in ways that go way beyond energy objectives.
In addition to the huge economic benefits it brings countries like Albania in terms of income and investments, those projects are also an opportunity for a transfer of knowledge and technology brought into the country.
To conclude, let me say clearly that we welcome the increased cooperation between Croatia, Montenegro and Albania, in particular the establishment of the Project Management Unit, which increases the chances for interest of potential investors.
As you know, the Western Balkans Investment Framework has already financed studies to mature the project and is ready to provide investment grants for the Albania and Montenegrin parts of the investments. The EU will remain supportive of closer cooperation with all the stakeholders and potential investors to get this priority project implemented on time.
It is already an excellent signal to see Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia & Hercegovina and Albania pushing together, with the support of the EU and the US, and I hope this cooperation will bear fruits.