The ministers responsible for energy in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia met with Commissioner Oettinger on 20 June 2010 in Algiers to accelerate the Maghreb electricity market integration process, the first step towards full integration of these markets with the European market.
At the end of the ministerial meeting, Commissioner Oettinger declared: "It is very important that the three Maghreb countries strongly reaffirm in Algiers today their joint willingness to create a Maghrebian electricity market with the perspective of integration with the European market. This is a very positive signal for our energy co-operation with these countries, which has every chance of becoming the basis of a strategic partnership."
The ministerial declaration, signed on 20 June 2010, confirms the shared objective of integration of electricity markets and defines a concrete action plan for the coming years, as well as the principle of an annual meeting of ministers to measure the progress made.
Given that the Maghrebian countries are making very considerable investments in order to meet strong growth in electricity demand, and that a new 400-kV main transmission cable connecting the three countries will be completed this year, the integration of markets on the basis of common rules has received a new and dynamic boost.
Reforms already under way in the electricity sector in the three countries will progressively integrate the regional dimension and enable commercial exchanges and the transport of electricity between the countries. This process favours investment in the electricity sector, particularly in projects involving renewable energy, such as each country’s solar plans and private initiatives like Desertec.
On the occasion of his first visit to the region, Commissioner Oettinger also held bilateral meetings with the ministers responsible for energy in the three Maghreb countries and met representatives of European industry in Algeria.
The Ministerial Council held in Algeria today was chaired by Mr Youcef Yousfi, Algerian Minister of Energy and Mines. Mrs Amina Benkhadra, Moroccan Minister of Energy, Mines, Water and the Environment, also participated in the meeting, as did Mr Afif Chelbi, Tunisian Minister of Industry and Technology. The Ministerial Council concluded with the signing of a joint ministerial declaration in the presence of Commissioner Oettinger.
The process of integrating the Maghrebian electricity markets was launched by the 2003 Protocol of Rome and has benefited from a technical assistance project financed by the European Union between 2007 and 2010. Following this preparation phase, today's ministerial council is a step towards the concrete realisation of a Maghrebian electricity market on the basis of an action plan.
The Desertec Project is a wide-ranging eco-energy project being carried out by the Desertec Foundation. The project involves the creation of an interconnected network supplied by solar-power stations from Morocco to Saudi Arabia and connected to Europe via Gibraltar and submarine cables. The objective of Desertec is to meet most of the needs of the producing countries in North Africa and the Middle East plus 15% (during the first phase) of Europe's electricity needs.