Energy infrastructure set to deregulate
Monday, December 8, 2003 · Last updated 10:53 a.m. PT
Balkan countries set to deregulate energy
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
BRUSSELS, Belgium -- Balkan countries agreed Monday to deregulate their energy markets starting in mid-2004 and allow each other's utilities access to infrastructure.
In a deal signed in Athens, ministers from Bulgaria, Romania, Albania, Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia and Turkey, agreed to follow the European Union's model allowing competition into previously state-dominated, regulated markets.
EU Energy Commissioner Loyola de Palacio called the step "momentous" and said EU governments soon will begin discussing plans to link the Balkan energy grid with the main EU one, de Palacio added.
The EU's head office sees energy integration a way of lending stability to the region which is slowly recovering from a decade of ethnic strife.
"We should not forget the political basis for the European Union: It is to prevent war. I am not alone in thinking that something similar may be emerging here in Southeast Europe," de Palacio said.
EU governments decided last July to accelerate energy deregulation within the trade bloc. From July, businesses across the EU will be free to choose their supplier. Three years later, households will get the choice.
Southeast European countries want to adhere to the same timeframe, although officials concede technical barriers may cause delays.
The program will include an overhaul of charges for access to gas pipelines and electricity grids so that companies have equal access to infrastructure.