Our literature review focuses on the situation in the energy sector, with a geographic focus in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Greece, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia. Croatia and Greece are members of the EU while Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia are parties to the Energy Community Treaty. The energy sector in these countries has been viewed based on the prospects for the achievement of the goals of the EU agenda for 2030 and the role of regional cooperation in this respect.

Regional cooperation in the energy sector is politically, and to a lesser extent, financially incentivized through numerous initiatives backed by the European Union or its member states (Energy Community Treaty, CESEC, Berlin Process). It is also important that initiatives from other players also aim at regional cooperation, but are not necessarily in line with the EU priorities. Gas connectivity projects are supported and promoted by various actors primarily Russia, while Chinese investments in regional infrastructure are coming in the framework of the “one belt one road” initiative. In addition, EU led initiatives do not seem to be fully harmonized. The initiatives, taken together, promote state investment and commercial actors may be completely crowded out with possible detrimental effects on the outcome in terms of quantity, quality, effectiveness and efficiency of future investments. 

Investments are required to drive energy transition if the region is to improve its competitiveness, and if the reduction of the damage to the environment both local (air and water pollution) and global (contribution to the climate change) is to be achieved. The goals of the EU 2030 climate and energy framework will be mandatory for the entire region either through the membership of the EU or through the accession process and participation in EU backed initiatives.

Membership of the EU, accession, the Energy community and the Berlin processes, and CESEC are all frameworks in which cooperation in the region in the energy sector is taking place. Russia is also interested in promoting some connectivity projects in particular in the gas sector, while the “one belt one road” agenda promoted by China more and more strongly influences regional cooperation. Processes promoted by the EU or its larger member states seem to continue to have in mind a reconciliation perspective. Ownership of those initiatives by the countries in the region does not seem to be strong, despite seemingly obvious need for strong regional cooperation in energy. All parties in the focus area, with the exception of Greece and Albania used to be members of the same energy market, yet the benefits of regional integration still do not seem to drive the connectivity agendas.

If the EU 2030 goals set in the climate and energy framework are to be met, and in so doing delivering on the development agenda, energy transition needs to take place in the region. Increased connectivity, and a single regulatory and investment framework are the tools to achieve this transition. The main challenges remain the reliance on the domestic low quality lignite, security of gas supply and energy poverty. Relations between overall quality of governance or the human rights agenda with the development sector is missing from all the processes. The accession process, organized by chapters is failing to identify the relations between the good governance framework, human rights, and energy; while other processes do not have sufficient political strength to address these issues and are focused on the infrastructure and connectivity aspects.

In governance frameworks remain unchanged, transit infrastructure may be seen as the source of monopoly rents rather than as elements enabling trade and security of supply. In almost all countries, focus on self-sufficiency, energy exports and the status of the transit hub is visible in rare public discussions on energy issues. More emphasis in all the processes needs to be put on good governance in and outside the energy sector.

Energy processes need to be rapidly opened up for participation. The entire process of the streamlining infrastructure projects suffers from lack of transparency and quality assurance.

There seems to be a strong role for the civil society organizations including professional associations, and academia in these processes yielding in true national ownership that may secure better and smoother implementation of regional cooperation.

Energy poverty is present as a topic in almost all these processes but remains poorly understood by the main players.

Energy poverty eradication may happen only as a genuine, fit to context, bottom up policy.

Managing large infrastructure agendas and the process of energy poverty eradication using the same tools does not seem to be feasible.

Actors in energy poverty are numerous and are not sufficiently represented in the design and implementation of the current regional cooperation mechanisms.

Civil society needs to be mandated to lead on this agenda as it is best suited to initiate and lead on such complex, multi-stakeholder local level policy at the current level of the developments in the societies in the region.

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