This paper was prepared within the framework of the project "Energy Club"*
The issue of energy security is on the agenda of many countries. However, the policy debate on energy security often focuses on the issue of reducing a country’s energy dependence rather than energy security. In any case, both dimensions seem to be of equal relevance to Belarus.
The scale and the magnitude of the energy security challenge has been recognized by the Belarusian government. Its efforts to address the challenge have hitherto concentrated on modernizing the energy sector and reducing energy consumption. However, the implementation of this policy has been hampered by a lack of financial resources and sectoral reforms and by the non-market status of Belarus’ energy enterprises and the legal framework governing relations in the energy sector. What is therefore required is a comprehensive sectoral reform that would involve private investors as well as technical assistance from international organizations.
There is no doubt that Belarus needs to intensify its cooperation with neighbouring countries. At the same time, enhancing energy security through the construction of a nuclear plant by a Russian contractor, and using Russian credit resources, does not seem to be a viable option.
2. What is energy security and why it is relevant for Belarus
3. Government policies on energy security and the "bottlenecks"
4. Conclusion: some proposals for decision makers
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*The Energy Club is a joint initiative of the Office for Democratic Belarus ((ODB) Brussels, Belgium) and the Belarusian Institute for Strategic Studies ((BISS) Vilnius, Lithuania) carried out under the patronage of the European Union representation to Belarus and the support of the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) and the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The mission of the Energy Club is to establish a platform for dialogue between the representatives of the government and the national and regional expert community, on key issues pertaining to the development of the energy sector in Belarus and regional cooperation in the energy sphere, including issues of energy efficiency and security.
The first meeting of the Energy Club took place on 29 October 2009 in Minsk and brought together independent experts, representatives of state institutions, scientists and foreign diplomats. Participants discussed most pressing challenges facing the energy sector of Belarus, prospects and risks associated with the country’s participation in regional projects on energy, as well as the lessons of the recent gas “wars” in the region and their implications for energy security of Belarus.
The initiative to establish the Energy Club grew out of the successful seminar, entitled ‘EU Energy Policy: Sharing Experience’, which was organized by the ODB in cooperation with the Foundation for Legal Technologies Development (Kyiv, Ukraine) and the Belarusian Institute for Strategic Studies under the patronage of the Delegation of the European Union in Minsk on 6-7 June 2009. The seminar, attended by independent and official experts, policy makers, civic activists, diplomats, and journalists, confirmed both the need for and the opportunity to pursue a constructive and focused, fair and open exchange of opinions on the key issues of socio-economic development of Belarus and the ways her rapprochement with the European Union could serve Belarus’ development goals. By establishing a permanent debate forum on the pivotal issue that shapes not only the development of the Belarusian economy but also the geopolitical orientation of the country, the ODB and BISS aim at:
• Establishing a platform for discussion of key issues pertaining to the development of the energy sector in Belarus and generating dialogue between official, independent, and international experts, civil society activists and policy making, on the energy future of Belarus.
• Generating, on the basis of discussions, policy recommendations and proposals for the development of the energy sector, possible directions of its reforming, development of transit infrastructure, alternative energy sources, and other key issues.
• Providing, through media outreach, a better understanding for the general public of key issues pertaining to the development of the energy sector and the way it affects day-to-day lives of ordinary citizens.
• Creating lasting partnerships between experts, civil society activists, and the media.
• Engaging, through debate and dialogue, the Belarusian expert community and policy makers with EU experts and improve understanding of how the cooperation with the EU would help the development of the key sector of the Belarusian economy. The Energy Club will therefore present an opportunity to establish one of the thematic platforms for the development of the Eastern Partnership initiative inside Belarus, and a model example of the involvement of civil society and public-private partnership in the EAP.
Energy Security of Belarus