Thinking Energy Cooperation Outside the Market/security Frames? Euro-Mediterranean Energy Relations after the Arab Uprisings

Anna Herranz-Surrallés

Given its potential for boosting employment, economic reforms and regional integration, energy policy has become one of the crucial areas of cooperation in Euro-Mediterranean relations after the Arab uprisings. The EU proposals to strengthen collaboration in this domain, however, have taken on a paradoxical turn. From the Mediterranean Solar Plan within the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM), which tried to offer a win-win partnership approach to bring economic and human development through energy sustainability, the new proposals meant a (re)turn in two directions. The first one is the renovated emphasis on a top-down extension of the EU energy market, an approach that the UfM was set to compensate given the lack of traction of the market-regulatory convergence approach of the European Neighbourhood Policy. This turn was encapsulated in the 2011 proposal for a Euro-Mediterranean Energy Community modelled on the very demanding Energy Community designed for the integration of candidate countries into the EU energy market. The second direction is the growing emphasis on energy security, embodied in the Euro-Mediterranean Energy Hub initiative. This paper will enquire into: why the EU's focus has shifted back to the aim of creating a common energy regulatory space, precisely when the context seems less ripe for top-down legally binding regimes of energy governance; and why it added a more security-oriented approach that emphasizes the strategic role of the Mediterranean for the EU rather than focus on what energy can do for the development of Southern Mediterranean Countries. To examine this question, the paper draws on a constructivist institutionalist framework to examine the conjunction of material, ideational and institutional factors that have led to the rapid (re)emergence of the market-liberal and security-oriented schemata and ensuing frames in Euro-Mediterranean energy relations despite the demand and previous commitment to promote human and economic development through energy sustainability.

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