On behalf of the International Energy Forum Secretariat (IEFS), it is a pleasure and honour for me to welcome you to this first EUROGULF energy workshop.
This is also the first workshop that the new Secretariat for the International Energy Forum, which was established here in Riyadh last December, is hosting. We wish the participants in the EUROGULF research project on EU-GCC energy relations every success. We hope that you in your deliberations at this and follow-on meetings succeed in your objective to develop new ideas for better co-operation in oil and natural gas affairs between your two important regional groupings. We will also follow with interest your follow-up workshop in Italy later this year and have the pleasure of hosting your final conference here in Riyadh in 2005.
At this opening session of the workshop, and sitting here at the table, H.R.H. Prince Abdul Aziz Bin Salman, Deputy Minister for Petroleum and Mineral Affairs will address us with words of welcome to Saudi Arabia. He will be followed by H.E. Ambassador Savage, Head of the Delegation of the European Commission here in Riyadh, who will give an EU perspective on the workshop and by Dr. Majid Al Moneef, Chairman of the GCC Energy Team and Saudi Arabia's OPEC Governer, who will give a GCC perspective. Professor Luciani, Co-Director of the Mediterranean Programme at the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies will then elaborate on the objectives of this workshop, setting the scene for the discussions that will follow after the coffee break.
Global energy dialogue at political level
You are all familiar with the International Energy Forum as a biannual meeting place for Ministers from energy producing and consuming countries. The first meeting of this global energy dialogue took place in Paris in 1991. This was at a time when international developments had highlighted once again the political importance of oil and the need for dialogue and co-operation between countries across the earlier producer-consumer dividing line. There was a new awareness of long-term common interests, of interdependence, vulnerability and win-win opportunity.
After Paris, a succession of political level meetings followed with ministers from an ever-increasing number of countries. First in Norway, then Spain, Venezuela, India, South Africa, here in Saudi Arabia and in Japan. The next meeting, the 9th IEF ministerial meeting, will be held in the Netherlands on 22-24 May this year. The main theme of this forthcoming Ministerial meeting will be "Investing in Energy. Choices for the Future." Ministers from more than 60 countries as well as the heads of leading international energy organizations have been invited.
The Netherlands, assisted by co-hosts Iran and Norway are putting the finishing touches of what promises to be a unique and comprehensive global discussion at political level of issues related to the investments needed to secure our common energy future.
Immediately preceding and separate from the official IEF, the International Energy Business Forum will take place and provide a platform for discussion between ministers and CEOs of leading energy companies and financial institutions. Their deliberations will feed into the subsequent political discussions between ministers in the IEF.
Unique global dialogue
The Ministerial dialogue in the IEF has its focus on security of energy supply and demand, as well as on the links between energy, environment and economic development. Greater stability and predictability in energy developments are increasingly seen as a shared goal that can facilitate long-term economic planning and have a positive influence on political developments as well.
The producer-consumer dialogue at political level in the IEF is unique in its global participation and perspective. It gathers ministers not only from the leading OPEC and IEA countries, but also ministers of important countries outside these two main producer and consumer organisations; also Russia, China, India, Brazil and South Africa to name a few, that already have, and will increasingly have, substantial impact on the global energy scenario.
The IEF is unique also in approach. It is not a negotiating or decision-making body. It is a forum for discussion, exchange of information and policy views at political level. The meetings contribute to greater mutual understanding between countries as well as to closer co-operation in and between other energy organizations.
Permanent International Secretariat
At the last IEF meeting in Japan in September 2002, Ministers endorsed the proposal by HRH Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia to set up a permanent secretariat for the IEF here in Riyadh. The mission of the secretariat is to support the process of global dialogue on energy at the political level.
A core task is to assist countries hosting the biannual ministerial meetings. We will also organize supporting seminars and roundtable meetings at political and experts' level here in Riyadh and abroad. We will contribute to enhanced data collection and transparency. We will interact with governments, industry and organisations with a view to strengthening global energy dialogue in an evolving global environment.
Very importantly, the Secretariat will help to ensure the continuity of the energy dialogue also between the biannual Ministerial Forums. The focus will be broad and include both global and regional energy issues. And the interrelationship between energy, technology, the environment and economic growth will be a prominent perspective. Between the biannual meetings, when all ministers can gather, I think that the Secretariat could contribute to the global energy dialogue by organising, or co-organising with participating countries, additional meetings of smaller groups of ministers to discuss issues in a regional context or among countries most immediately concerned and influential.
Our mission is to support the global dialogue at Ministerial level in the International Energy Forum. It would be wrong to define the global dialogue on energy as a dialogue confined to events and activity that are solely global in participation and scope.
Rather, one can speak of this dialogue as a Global Energy Policy Interrelationship, a co-operative network of on-going contacts at political and experts' level, at a bilateral, regional, inter-regional or global level and where international organisations, financial institutions and research institutes, as well as industry itself, have a role to play. The global dialogue is the sum of all the elements involved.
Our inter-regional workshop today and tomorrow is one such element in this co-operative network. EUROGULF is a research project on EU-GCC energy relations, supported by the European Commission in the framework of the SYNERGY Programme and implemented by a consortium of European and Arab research institutes.
The IEFS is honoured to host and lend support to your deliberations and dialogue for energy stability and sustainability. You will be dealing with short and long term energy issues of relevance not only to the EU and GCC and to relations between your two regional groupings. The issues that you will be addressing are also relevant in the wider global energy scenario that is the IEF's framework for activity.