RETHINKING EURO-MEDITERRANEAN POLICIES IN THE FIELDS OF ENERGY AND INDUSTRY
The sector of energy and trade, and its involvement between EU and South Mediterranean relations is one that is interesting to explore. The findings of the policy brief show that within this sector: there is no civil society involvement; lack of a partnership diversification by the EU; and a lack of communication between sectors. Within Lebanon, a largely service oriented economy, little is known by the general public about EU involvement in industry and trade. It is largely regarded by the public that little industry is developing. Although there is potential to boost the economy through the creation of large and much needed infrastructure projects. There have been talks of such projects at the hands of the Hariri government, but nothing appears to materialize yet. Of course the main concern, for decades now, is the question of energy. Beirut experiences 3 hours of power cuts per day, and the rest of the country is around half a day. The rest is supplied by toxic and polluting generators. End of 2018 and into 2019 saw even longer power cuts across the country due to fuel shortages. The promise of 24/7 electricity has been echoing also for decades. This is indeed an area where the EU can engage with Lebanon, and if successful, would relieve residents of Lebanon of a main problem and concern. EU expertise, best practices, and knowledge on clean energy would be extremely beneficial.
Regarding energy in Lebanon, there has been for some years now heated discussion around the gas sector and exploration in Lebanese waters. This is another area where EU involvement would be beneficial in assisting the development of the sector. The likely assumption by much of the Lebanese public is that the mass profits generated if gas is to be confirmed in Lebanese waters, would be pocketed by the already wealthy elite involved in the process. At this time, given Lebanese politician’s track records, it is unlikely that the profits would be used for the benefit of the nation at large. While the policy brief discusses civil society participation within the sectors of energy and industry, there remains no civil society participation in discussions around gas extraction in Lebanese waters. The question in Lebanon is instead often one of security and geopolitical quarrels, as the southernmost fields are under debate with the country’s southern neighbor.
While the EU calls for more diversified set of stakeholders and actors when developing policies in regard to energy and industry, this remains a sector where both the general public and civil society are almost entirely absent. When civil society does get involved, it is often in the case of protest, such as the proposed dam in the Birsi Valley. This large infrastructure project is greatly opposed by much of the civil society sector, and is a project that is funded by the World Bank. Indeed, it is not just best practices that are necessary from the part of the EU, but also advocacy and support of the civil society sector when it does engage with industry and energy.
MEDRESET is a consortium of research and academic institutions focusing on different disciplines from the Mediterranean region to develop alternative visions for a new Mediterranean partnership and corresponding EU policies. It aims at designing an inclusive, flexible, and responsive future role for the EU in the region based on the multiple perspectives of local and bottom-up actors.