The Geopolitics of the European Green Deal

Géopolitique Pacte Vert Européen

Written by Emma Chlebowski and Enzo Padovan.

On January 1, 2022, the trio presidency of the Council of the European Union began with France, the Czech Republic and Sweden. Composed of four main pillars, the trio’s program focuses on protecting citizens and their freedoms, building a European model for the future and protecting European interests and values in the world. The fourth theme is the construction of a climate-neutral, ecological, fair and social Europe, in connection with the Green Deal which will be discussed in this article.

Objectives set by the European Green Deal presented by Ursula von der Leyen on 11 December 2019.

Taking over the Presidency of the EU Council for six months each, the three countries have made the environment one of their priorities, with the ambition of maintaining the objectives set for 2030 and 2050. Indeed, while the Covid-19 crisis has upset the European political agenda, it has also contributed to accelerating the ecological transition through an economic recovery strategy and national recovery and resilience plans.

The implementation of the Green Deal was therefore slowed down because of Covid-19, and it is now facing new challenges with the galloping inflation that the European continent is experiencing and the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, which has revived European solidarity. Consequently, the trio of presidencies is carrying the environmental issue with fervor, although the reception of this Green Deal is not uniform in the three countries. Indeed, its application represents an economic and financial challenge as well as an institutional and political one. While it is clear that it requires closer cooperation within the European Union itself, the question of the European Union’s external relations also remains essential. How can we envisage becoming the first climate-neutral continent while being dependent on fossil fuel exploitation in states outside the European Union? The aim here is not to describe what the Green Deal is, but rather to study the various issues at stake in its application, from the European Union’s internal policy to its external policy, through concrete examples and its strengths and weaknesses.


An economic and financial challenge 

In France, national ambitions in line with European ambitions

Since the presentation of the Green Deal, France has positioned itself as one of the promoters of the European project, with strong ambitions that are already reflected at the national level. When Emmanuel Macron presented the major investment plan for the future “France 2030” on October 12, 2021, he wanted to position himself as a leader in the ecological transition, stating that “the France of tomorrow begins today”. Of the 54 billion euros deployed over 5 years for the program, 8 billion are dedicated to the energy sector. In the same dynamic, the implementation of the Citizens Convention for Climate, which resulted in a report in 2020, is part of the process. 150 people chosen at random, representing “France in miniature”, have sought to move towards a greener Constitution by proposing 149 measures, of which only 28 will be retained, sometimes with modifications.

France is one of the European Union’s main allies in environmental matters and in many other areas. The European Commission has adopted a partnership agreement with France to the tune of 18.4 billion euros for the period 2021-2027 as part of the cohesion policy. Thus, 2.8 billion euros are dedicated to the implementation of this Green Deal in the country. With this partnership, local investments will also be strengthened as ten French territories in six regions (Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Grand-Est, Hauts-de-France, Normandie, Pays-de-la-Loire, Sud-Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur) are concerned by the billion euros dedicated to the Just Transition Fund.

At the European level, it is also worth recalling that it was under the French Presidency of the Council of the EU that the Fit for 55 package was adopted. The package contains 13 directives and regulations that place the European Union “at the forefront of the fight against climate change” according to Agnès Pannier-Runacher, French Minister for Energy Transition, including three key measures: the end of the sale of vehicles with internal combustion engines as of 2035 – a measure officially adopted by the European Parliament on February 14, 2023 – the introduction of a carbon tax at the European Union’s borders, and the strengthening of the European carbon market. The objective of this package is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030 compared to their 1990 level, in order to achieve the first objective of the Green Deal: to have a climate neutral continent by 2050.

Infographics representing the measures included in the Fit for 55 package.

The European Union also supports France’s initiatives in terms of investments for the ecological transition. The Commission agreed on February 13, 2023 for France to implement an incentive of 2.08 billion euros to support the production of offshore wind energy. This measure will allow France to produce 33% of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2030 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 430,000 tons of CO2 per year in the long term. The European Commission has given the green light for the implementation of this measure because it complies with the Commission’s 2022 Guidelines on State aid for climate, environmental protection and energy, which allow Member States to provide the support necessary to achieve the objectives and targets of the Green Deal and European environmental and energy regulations.

Finally, to transcribe European legislation at the national level, the French government adopted the Energy-Climate Law in 2019 which includes the goal of carbon neutrality by 2050 – reinforced by the Climate and Resilience Law of 2021 carrying flagship measures such as improving air quality in major cities or fighting against soil concreteization. The European Union, as part of the implementation of the Green Deal, knows that it can count on France, a Member State that is a pillar of European construction and of its policy even today.

In the Czech Republic, goodwill but notable fears

The Czech Republic, which succeeds France in the presidency of the Council of the European Union, has also sought to make the environment one of its priorities. While the Czech government adopted a National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRRP) in May 2021, the process of adopting this plan was strongly criticized by civil society for lacking opportunities for effective participation, as was the case in France with the Citizens Convection for Climate. In total, 7.9 billion euros are being invested in the ecological transition, or 3.7% of the country’s GDP. However, the Green Deal and the EU’s climate objectives are only briefly mentioned, and the Czech National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP) is not itself aligned with the objectives set for 2030.

The environmental theme was at the heart of the debates in 2019 when the government set up a commission to work on a timetable and modalities for the exit of Czech coal – the “Coal Commission” – given its place in the country’s industries and power generation. Although the date of 2038 was announced, it was not chosen because of a desire to get out of coal well before that date. Social aspects related to employment in former coal mining regions and the issue of long-term droughts have also contributed to the acceleration of discussions about the environment.

Infographics showing the different sources of electricity production in the country in 2020.

Today, Czech citizens are not opposed to the implementation of the Green Deal, but have significant concerns about its potential effects on the national economy. On September 15, 2022, on the initiative of the Agrarian Chamber of the Czech Republic and the Agricultural Association of the Czech Republic, a demonstration was organized to criticize the redistribution of subsidies to family farms, which is one of the major measures of the Czech strategic plan of the CAP. Those same farmers fear that this new policy for the distribution of agricultural subsidies and the application of the objectives of the Green Deal will make European food “an expensive luxury that will certainly not be within the reach of everyone”. The demonstrators were able to find the support of agricultural organizations from a large part of the CEE countries.

Beyond the agricultural issue, the Czech population is aware of the climate emergency, but about half of them think that the Green Deal will harm the country, according to a survey by the STEM agency presented on 20 September 2022. This skepticism must be qualified: only 12% of respondents are aware of the objectives of this Green Deal for Europe. Environment Minister Anna Hubáčková has acknowledged that low-income households have little means to overhaul their heating or electricity systems, but she wants this to change by providing financial assistance to move towards renewable energy and energy-saving measures.

To alleviate this problem, as for France, the European Commission gave the green light to the Czech Republic on December 16, 2022 for a Czech aid scheme of 1.2 billion euros to promote green district heating in order to reach the objectives of the above-mentioned NECP and the Green Deal. The individual projects supported will result in a reduction of at least 15% in CO2 emissions and 10% in non-renewable primary energy consumption compared to pre-support levels. Again, this measure complies with the Commission’s 2022 Guidelines on State aid for climate, environmental protection and energy.

Sweden, a trendsetter in environmental matters 

Sweden is known and recognized for its investment in the environment. Historically, it was the first country in the world to adopt a law guaranteeing environmental protection in 1967. It was also the country that hosted the first United Nations Conference on the Global Environment in 1972.

By continuing the policies led by France and then by the Czech Republic, Sweden aspires to raise its national environmental ambitions and maintain the Green Deal at the European level. The Swedish government is already seeking to move towards a fossil fuel-free transport sector by 2030, thanks to its large electric car fleet, so that the country will be completely fossil fuel-free by 2045, thus meeting the criterion of neutrality before 2050. In addition, Sweden has mastered the best techniques for selective sorting and recycling. It also produces electricity almost free of fossil fuels by mixing nuclear and renewable energies, especially hydroelectricity.

Infographics showing the proportion of renewable energy used in electricity production.

Although the Swedish model seems to be leading the European pack, the country has to deal with a very high individual consumption. The consumption of greenhouse gases represents about nine tons per person each year. According to the national public environmental protection agency, this is nine times more than the level that should be maintained to avoid the risk of exceeding a temperature rise of 2 degrees by 2050. As an illustration, household consumption accounts for two-thirds of consumption-related emissions. The NGO Global Footprint Network reminds us that if every individual in the world had consumed like a Swede, the “Overshoot day” would have been April 3, 2020, and not July 29, as was the case this very year.

Sweden, as the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, must take a firm position to maintain the objectives of the Green Deal. Indeed, the war in Ukraine has shown the Achilles heel of the European Union, which is its dependence on Russian oil and gas – we will come back to this later. Thus, any decision taken in the short term to ensure the European Union’s energy security must be in line with the long-term response to climate change. But its legitimacy seems, to some extent, to be questioned. There are many concerns about its forest management as it moves away from the New EU Forest Strategy for 2030. Through this flagship Green Deal program, the European Commission is calling on countries to avoid clear-cutting – the main method of logging in Sweden – which involves cutting down all the trees in an area, including the oldest ones, leading to a deterioration of the soil and biodiversity in the area. As a result, more than 2,000 forest species are now threatened, 400 of them by clearcutting. Swedish forest industry leaders, accused of “deceptive marketing”, are seeking to show that they are not harming climate action, and this pressure is reinforced by the government’s view that the European Commission does not have the expertise to comment on its forest management.

The last major element to be considered in Sweden’s relationship to the Green Deal is characterized by the shift in political orientation following the September 2022 parliamentary elections, in which the Sweden Democrats won 20.6% of the vote. Indeed, with this government, it is the first time in 35 years that there is no independent ministry of the environment. For the Greens, this speaks volumes about the new government’s consideration of the climate emergency.


An institutional and political challenge

The need to strengthen political cohesion

Strengthening political cohesion and putting in place tools of solidarity are the keys to the successful implementation of the Green Deal. Without close cooperation between Brussels and the member states, a gradual disintegration of the European Union is to be expected due to differences in the capacity of governments to support their economies and populations, and to widening socio-economic disparities. In implementing the Green Deal, the European Commission aims to strike a new balance between the social, economic and environmental dimensions of integration, so that a holistic governance of the Union’s policies emerges. Political cohesion, in this sense, goes beyond the division of competences defined in the treaties. As stated in point 2.1 of the text, “the Green Deal will make consistent use of all policy levers: regulation and standardization, investment and innovation, national reforms, dialogue with social partners and international cooperation”.

The application of the Green Deal is indeed, for the European Commission, a means of strengthening the cohesion and coherence of European public policies. While Article 7 of the TFEU recalls that “The Union shall ensure consistency between its policies and activities, taking all of its objectives into account and in accordance with the principle of conferral of powers”, the Green Deal goes further in this consistency by proposing a hierarchy of objectives for greater cohesion. Indeed, all of the European Union’s policies must contribute to achieving climate neutrality by 2050. In this sense, the Green Deal communication introduces the notion of a “green oath” (point 2.2.5) as well as the fundamental nature of environmental protection, as the Court of Justice of the European Union recalled in its judgment of 27 February 2020 Commission v. Greece, aff. C – 298/19, ECLI : EU : C : 2020 : 133, concerning non-compliance with the 1991 “nitrates” directive.

Infographics showing the measures that the green oath implies.

Strengthening political cohesion also requires a “remobilization of the European nation”. As the Green Deal is perceived as a means of economic growth and improving the living conditions of Europeans, it intends de facto to create a union of Europeans and a general mobilization of all actors in society. These values are essential for a good application of the Green Deal given the upheavals that its adoption has caused. Indeed, as early as the December 2019 European Council, Poland did not align with the conclusions on carbon neutrality, defending the need for more time and money. In addition, stronger coordination between Member States and between the state and local governments is needed. It remains to be noted that the Member States have become aware of the need to act on a community scale.

Finally, the need to strengthen the political cohesion of the European Union leads to a more inclusive governance of the Union. In the application of the Green Deal, it is a question of leaving “no one behind” of the transition, hence the multiplication of solidarity tools such as the Just Transition Fund. The ecological transition cannot be achieved if the European Union’s social policy is neglected. Leaving “no one behind” certainly means accompanying all the Member States, but it also means integrating civil society into the implementation of the Green Deal by including more actors to make this project “politically credible”. This is how the Green Deal was also built in a bottom-up dynamic, as shown by the European Climate Law, which brought together the opinions of civil society, NGOs, companies and associations representing industrial sectors through public consultations by the European Commission.

A necessary change of political paradigm

The implementation of the Green Deal also induces a political paradigm shift. If the Covid-19 crisis has put an end to the European neoliberal paradigm, the European Union must now move towards strategic resilience, industrial leadership and decarbonization. Moreover, an additional obstacle has been added to the implementation of the Green Deal with the adoption of the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which aims, among other things, to implement subsidies in low-carbon technologies and would therefore put the European Union in trouble. The European industry is indeed threatened for three reasons: some of the subsidy measures encourage American purchasing, companies producing in the United States could benefit from tax breaks and production subsidies could lead to a subsidy race. In response to the IRA, the European Commission published its proposal for a Grean Deal Industrial Plan on February 1. Aiming to strengthen Europe’s industrial competitiveness and production capacity to gradually achieve climate neutrality, this plan encourages decarbonization and innovation through subsidies already worth several billion euros across four pillars: a predictable and simplified regulatory environment, faster access to sufficient financing, enhanced skills, and open trade for resilient supply chains.

Although it was presented as a response to the US and Japanese investment plans, the plan did not elicit a uniform response from all stakeholders. The European People’s Party, Renew Europe and the Greens regret the late presentation of the plan and hope that it will stimulate the competitiveness of European industry in an efficient and effective way. The S&D party is more critical, saying that the Green Deal Industrial Plan falls short of American ambitions. Member States generally emphasized the proposal, which promotes “Made in Europe”. However, environmental NGOs are concerned that the plan is more of an industry assistance program than a comprehensive program for sustainable industry.

Table comparing the European Green Deal Industrial Plan with the American and Japanese plans.

In any case, in the face of the shock of the IRA announcement among the 27, it was necessary for the European Commission to take a firm stand, at the risk of seeing clean technology manufacturing plants set up in the United States rather than on European soil. The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, explained it as follows: “We have a once in a generation opportunity to show the way with speed, ambition and a sense of purpose to secure the EU’s industrial lead in the fast-growing net-zero technology sector. Europe is determined to lead the clean tech revolution. For our companies and people, it means turning skills into quality jobs and innovation into mass production, thanks to a simpler and faster framework. Better access to finance will allow our key clean tech industries to scale up quickly”.


A necessary cooperation with foreign partners

The EU relies mainly on its foreign partners to power itself. Henceforth, it would be impossible to create an impermeable distinction between the Green Deal’s application within the Union’s borders, and its international relations. As a result, the newest environment policies require a reinforced cooperation with Brussels’ current partners. The Ukrainian conflict has revealed the deep interconnectivity that characterizes the world’s energetic system, a direct byproduct of contemporary globalization, although this conflict will be studied in further details later in this document.

With a net carbon neutrality objective for 2050, Europe will not be able to use fossil fuels at the same pace it currently does. Norway, despite not being a common market member, is the biggest European hydrocarbons producer. In 2018, 7.2% of the Union’s oil consumption was supplied by Norway, enforcing its role as one of the main economic partners. Oslo thus represents a strategic ally, as well as a crucial seller, notably through the Europipe II pipeline. The latter has been operational since 1999, and is directly linked to the rest of the Union through Germany; Berlin has imported from Norway, in December 2022, 40% of its natural gas. In parallel, the BalticPipe pipeline is currently under construction, and should link Poland, Sweden and Denmark to this gas network in the coming years.

Map of the Europipe II and BalticPipe networks, linking Northern Europe to Norway.

In spite of the financial benefits that such trade brings, Norway is one of the most advanced countries when it comes to renewable energy. Up to 98% of its electricity is produced by green energies, oil and gas consumptions being generally limited to the transport and the industry sectors. The country sets an example that a great number of European nations hope to follow, and the Norwegian cooperation seems to be an excellent factor, to encourage decarbonation.

If we examine the German case, the country has pledged to ensure that 80% of its electricity will be produced by renewable energies. Berlin will not be able to eternally maintain its gas imports with its Nordic ally; this is why both countries are currently looking for alternatives. For a couple of years, Oslo has been promoting the use of hydrogen, and marine exploitation for energy (through the hydropower sector, or the installation of offshore wind turbines), which has not gone unnoticed by its neighbors. On January 5, 2023, a joint declaration between German and Norwegians announced a common wish to develop infrastructures for hydrogen deliveries. This should pave the way towards a progressive end of gas exploitation. Furthermore, on February 17, 2023, the Equinor and EnBW industrial groups (respectively Norwegian and German) have announced the start of a wind turbine farm project, in the Baltic Sea. In a nutshell, Europe can still rely on some of its closest partners to further the development of a more sustainable energy mix.

The cooperation with foreign partners could also follow different patterns. The Chinese example is very important: China represented, in 2021, a fourth of global greenhouse gases emissions, but it has announced its objective to reach carbon neutrality by 2060, 10 years after the EU. With similar goals but different roadmaps, the trading relations between those two poles of the Triad will inevitably be influenced by current environmental policies. Between 2018 and 2021, the majority of European investments in China were especially concentrated on carbon-producing sectors: some of those are automobile producers (31% of investments), food transformation and distribution (14%) or even the chemical industries (9%). As climate legislations will be progressively adopted, EU companies, through taxes or prohibitive measures, will be discouraged to invest in foreign polluting industries. However, Beijing is also the global lead producer of electrical vehicles, whose access the EU would like to widen. As such, in the upcoming years, similarly to the Norwegian case, China will modify its trading exchanges with Europe, notably in the automobile sector, giving more room to electrical production.

But to other Chinese industries that the old continent’s nations keep financing, the Green Deal could potentially pose a problem. The latter will only deepen, as those same nations will gradually abandon fossil energies. The same applies to the United States, whose transatlantic LNG exports have greatly increased throughout 2022, compensating the Russian shortfall. If the Biden administration has, two years ago, reintegrated the Paris Agreements, both Democrats and Republicans are still divided regarding the measures to adopt in order to mitigate climate change. It is not impossible that, following future elections, an American Green Deal could be set in motion (as the Representative Alexandria Occasio-Cortez suggests): or that on the contrary, a new government could decide to reconsider the climatic engagements promised by Washington. In both cases, political changes would have a real impact on the relations with the EU, the US’ fourth trading partner, thus proving the importance of external partners on the issue of energy. 

The issue of external relations

Restructuring relations with fossil fuels suppliers

The Green Deal topic is becoming a central focus for EU’s foreign relations, due to the 27 member-States’ reliance on other countries’ fossil exploitation. According to the consulting cabinet Cambridge Economics, in 2018, 96% of the oil used in the Union came from imports, and the two thirds of it were consumed by the transport sector. Still, according to the same sources and the Commission’s data, the three main countries selling petroleum to Europe are Russia (around 30% of all exports in 2018), Iraq (9%) and Saudi Arabia (7,5%). However, those are global estimations ; reality varies greatly from one State to another. Ex-socialist republics (Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, for example) are relying far more on Russian imports than France or Spain, whose hydrocarbons are mainly imported from Africa. Therefore, the French-Algerian relation is strongly focused on energy exchanges, as Alger supplies almost 9% of all natural gas used in the Hexagon.

Thus, although general tendencies appear regarding energy, those dependencies are not always comparable, as EU member-States’ characteristics, by definition, greatly vary between countries. Malta and Sweden’s energy mixes, in 2019, show two very different pictures of European energy: Valetta only used 8.2% of renewable in its overall consumption, and mainly used fossil resources’ imports to power its economy. Its island geography constraints it to realize greater sacrifices than Sweden, whose electrical balance leans further towards low-carbon production. With a share of renewable having reached 54.6% when the Green Deal was signed, Stockholm is currently the most advanced EU State in the green transition. Malta’s future efforts will, ultimately, be proportionally higher than Sweden’s on the long run.

In the next few decades, this transition will greatly impact Europe’s relations with its main fossil fuel suppliers. In the eyes of numerous hydrocarbons producers, the EU represents an attractive market (20% of global oil imports, in 2019), and losing it could cause strong economic consequences. On the year the Green Deal was signed, African countries have exported over 840 millions of crude oil barrels to their trans-Mediterranean neighbors: Africa holds in great importance those financial transactions, which represent profits amounting to dozens of billions of dollars. Additionally, OPEC countries, which abundantly supply European consumers, could be tempted to balance the UE’s loss by driving their prices down, in order to gain less industrialized nations’ markets. The presence of this organization at the African Energy Week, in 2021, is maybe not a coincidence; facing the potential loss of one of their biggest clients, hydrocarbons producers have no other choice than to seek for other buyers, to whom they can sell their stocks.

However, it is important to remember that Europe cannot and does not wish to function in a closed circuit: evidently, oil and gas imports coming from Russia will be reduced in future years. Nonetheless, this will open the gate to other types of exchanges with this continent. In October 2022, a provisory agreement between Brussels and Namibia has been discussed, on the topic of rare earth materials, necessary for renewable energies’ exploitation. The African continent has plenty of raw materials (used, as an example, in the fabrication of photovoltaic panels), which represents an opportunity to replace investments on fossil fuels by greener projects. On the long run, the African Union could prepare to follow in the footsteps of European nations, using foreign investments to finance their own transition.

Infographics presenting EU crude oil imports’ sources.


The war in Ukraine, an accelerator for the Green Deal’s application in Europe

The Ukrainian conflict is, by all means, one of the catalysts justifying the Green Deal’s measures adoption. This agreement is often associated to purely economical and ecological topics, which aims at encouraging a transition from fossil energies to renewable sources. In practice, it also aims at ensuring a greater diversity in the Union’s energy sources, in order to reduce member-States’ reliance on foreign countries. Before the invasion of February 24, 2022, Russia was the largest oil and gas supplier for most CEE countries. Just as the Green Deal was starting to be set in motion, from 2021 onwards, Russia was exporting 155 billion cubic meters to the 27 EU countries; this represents approximately 45% of all natural imported by Brussels, according to the International Energy Agency, and 40% of total gas consumption in Europe. With the hydrocarbons deliveries’ issues caused by the Ukrainian conflict, Russian hydrocarbons’ price has plummeted, sparking a loss of around 160 million Euros per day for Moscow. The CREA think tank (Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air) specifies that the Russian commercial losses have led them to look for other partners, in the last few months: thus, Japan has replaced the European market as the first importer of LNG produced by Russia.

The consequences of those privations, within the member-States, have varied in intensity. The university laboratory EconomiX (affiliated to the Paris-Nanterre University) measured, in a study, the degree of the old continent’s nations’ reliance on Russian gas. Spain, Portugal or even Ireland, geographically and economically distant from Moscow, have not been impacted in the same way as Eastern European countries have been. Baltic States, for example, whose entire gas sector was virtually tied to their previous ally’s exploitations, had to entirely restructure their consumption from April 1, 2022, the day LNG imports have officially ceased.

Czechia, despite its progressive estrangement towards Russia, is a very good example of the energy crisis’ consequences for gas importing States. The Czech power grid was dependent on the Druzhba pipeline, built by the Soviets during the 1960’s: its goal was to connect the supply network of European nations present at the COMECON, thus assuring a form of energetic reliance on Moscow. Still in activity today (although its deliveries have dwindled), the pipeline still has a terminal in Litvinov, in the north of Czechia, which receives its gas through Slovakia. This link provided up to 87% of its natural gas.

Map of the Druzhba Pipeline’s network, which brings hydrocarbons to former socialist republics in Europe.

Yet, since the hostilities have started in Ukraine, the deliveries have been largely reduced, in response to the sanctions approved by the European Commission. Nowadays, Russian gas only amounts 3 or 4% of Prague’s consumption, according to Euractiv. This has led the Czech industrial group ČEZ (České energetické závody), along with two German companies, to sue the Gazprom company for contract violation; financial compensations, reaching up to dozens of millions of dollars, are required to compensate the damage caused by the missing gas supplying. In addition, the Czech Republic has known a record inflation in the latter half of 2022, reaching 17.5% in August 2022. This has forced the country to start reusing brown coal in its energy mix, despite preparing to stop coal’s usage by January 1, 2033. If the current crisis won’t necessarily delay this objective to abandon most polluting energy, it nonetheless proves that external factors can play a significant part in the Green Deal’s evolution, for the worst and the best.

In reality, the energetic consequences of the Ukranian conflict have revealed another major issue of European politics, which is the reliance on resources produced by instable partners. If the 27 member States have already started, in the last few years, a process of reducing their dependency on Russian hydrocarbons, the imports’ halt has greatly worsened the energy crisis, which began a year before Ukraine’s invasion. Concentrating the dependency on one State in particular is thus a problem that Brussels aims at solving, by diversifying its partners on the global scale. In order to guarantee a better supplying security, and a permanent stability regarding energy, the solution would be to find new producers to whom Europe can buy the necessary resources to power its energy.

Towards new external partnerships?

On May 18, 2022, the European Commission exposed its REPowerEU plan, which presents itself as a real action plan, aiming at removing the imports of Russian fossil fuels. Amongst the topics reviewed by the plan, there is a list of partners with whom Europe wants to work on the energetic issue. Some of those States are already great allies of Brussels (Norway, East Asia, and the US), others represent new potentials for future cooperation.

About fossil energies, a few partnerships that either need to be reinforced or developed are studied by the Commission. One of them is the Southern European gas corridor, a project set in motion since 2020, and is a serious alternative in order to reduce the overreliance on Moscow. Starting from Azerbaijan (an emerging country, when it comes to hydrocarbons exports), and going through Georgia then Türkiye, this network of three pipelines has exported 12 billions of cubic meters of gas, on 2022 (an increase of 30%, compared to the 2021 levels). The objective is now to raise the import rate to 20 billion cubic meters per year, by 2027 ; evidently, this cannot meet all of the European demand, this initiative has a real potential, that States have clearly identified, and that they hope to exploit.

Map of the Southern European gas corridor, which links Azerbaijan to Russia through a network of three pipelines, bypassing Russia.

In addition to this partnership with Caucasian nations, the Union is looking for newer eastern agreements for its fossil resources. On June 15, 2022, a joint memorandum was signed between Brussels, Egypt and Israel, at Cairo: amongst the memorandum’s promises, we can find future talks on international cooperation for hydrogen and natural gas. The two countries who signed the document are members of the East Mediterranean Gas Forum (where EU offices as an observer), which justifies that projects on energy supply could be prepared in the coming years. The deliveries would then go through Cyprus or Greece. Once again, it is important to point out that these programs will not only touch upon gas issues, as hydrogen is just as present in the memorandum’s content. Green energy is still a priority that European stakeholders will not leave in the background.

However, other geographical areas face other particular issues, which could exert an influence on the European Green Deal. Africa is, as a whole, a very important continent for the 27 member-States’ energy. The Sahara has a strategic potential for solar and wind power, and Europe supports permanent discussions with North African nations on these matters. Proposals for cable linkages between Egypt and Greece, Tunisia and Italy, or Morocco and Spain have all been examined, with interesting advantages to both continents. For instance, the World Bank explains that Morocco is 90% dependent on imports for its energy sector; building solar power plants could help it to turn the tide, and export its own production. Moreover, Europe has intensified its investments to sub-Saharan Africa, also in order to distance itself from Russian influence.

Despite those programs’ advantages, part of the continent’s population has understandable concerns regarding the European’s presence in the region. 45% of Nigerians do not have access to electricity, yet their country is the greatest oil exporter for the Iberian Peninsula. Additionally, Sahara’s exploitation for energetic reasons requires the relocation of numerous populations, and large territorial developments, which aren’t necessarily at local communities’ advantage. Finally, the infrastructure issue is at the heart of the debate; even if Africa could supply Europe in energy, how will gas, petroleum or uranium be transported on such a great distance, whilst maintaining affordable prices? This implies further investments, and the deployment of infrastructures which, due to the African geography and the amount of stakeholders, could potentially take years before they are even operational.

Therefore, if Africa is and will remain a close partner to Europe, on the energetic question, this approach’s limits need to be acknowledged. The EU needs to give sustainable investments to its external partners, and encourage their green transition as much as its own. Just like any other agreement on the energetic issue, there is no unique solution, and no country perfectly adapted to become Brussels’ main ally. This is a game of prospection and balance, which needs to take into account the short and long term effects of environmental policies.



In an official communication by the European Commission, released on December 11, 2019, Ursula von der Leyen commented the Green Deal as follows: “It is a strategy for growth that gives more back than it takes away. And we want to really make things different. We want to be the frontrunners in climate friendly industries, in clean technologies, in green financing. But we also have to be sure that no one is left behind.

Those words perfectly describe all the issues related to the Green Deal’s implementation. The 27 member States face very different environmental, economical and social challenges, yet they have all agreed to work together in order to mitigate global warming’s effects. The three countries occupying the rotating EU presidency, between January 1, 2022 and June 30, 2023, are good examples of this variety of constraints and successes, but against which a common wish to reach carbon neutrality by 2050 prevails.

Some countries are facing difficulties, which they will have to tackle throughout their own energetic transition. The COVID-19 crisis, or the one that was accelerated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, have revealed deeper vulnerabilities within each of the Union’s members: energetic dependency, lack of renewable energy, and other socio-economic difficulties are many national parameters that, once brought together, threaten the European cohesion regarding climate policies. Without internal cooperation and the development of comprehensive tools (such as the Green Deal Industrial Plan) with the ability to kickstart common efforts, it is the whole sustainable development ideal that becomes weakened as a result.

In a nutshell, the Green Deal will not achieve its objectives if the EU does not manage to face its own challenges, may they be institutional, economical, or even diplomatic. To be efficient, Brussels will have to strengthen the solidarity between all countries, whilst ensuring its relations with its reliable external partners. Like all achievements previously accomplished by the EU, the green transition will be, above all else, the product of a common will and common efforts, realized by united countries in a global interest of environmental protection, and sustainable development.




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