Geneva, 23 January 2001
OPENING STATEMENT BY Ms. D. HÜBNER
EXECUTIVE SECRETARY OF
THE ECONOMIC COMMISSION FOR EUROPE
Mr. Chairman, distinguished delegates, colleagues,
It is always a pleasure to see how well attended the sessions of the Working Party on Gas are. This is indeed appreciated as this Working Party and its subsidiary bodies provide a unique forum for the ECE fifty-five governments, gas industries and international organizations to exchange views, consider policies and undertake joint projects on natural gas issues of interest to both governments and industry. When these two entities cooperate, it is to the benefit of consumers. I am gratified to see that the gas industries are working so closely with the Working Party.
I know that the year 2000 was a good year for your Working Party. You have had an active and full programme of work, but also very spectacular events. At the last session of the Working Party there was a presentation of your Study on the Underground Gas Storage in Europe and Central Asia, which was a success and a good example of a regional approach to your work. I would like to take this opportunity to thank once again the many companies, organizations and governments for their valuable contribution.
Let me also mention another project of a regional nature that is currently underway, namely International Map of Gas fields in Europe. As I was informed, it is in good progress now, especially due to an active leading role of our colleagues from Germany and the Russian Federation. Let me invite all of you to give full support and contribution to this project, which is being implemented by the Ad Hoc Group of Experts on Natural Gas Resources. It may be a success like that of the Underground Gas Storage.
As you may all know, standards and norm-setting is one of the ECE priorities, we are particularly strong in developing legally binding internationally instruments in environment, trade and transport and I note with satisfaction that you also tackle these issues in the field of gas. In particular, I mention the two projects on "Technological and ecological norms required for the design and operation of gas distribution networks" and on "Existing standards and regulations on permissible concentrations of harmful components in gas-combustion products", that will be discussed the day after tomorrow by the Ad Hoc Group of Experts on the Supply and Use of Gas.
Yesterday I had a meeting with the Advisory Body of the Gas Centre whose role in stimulating cooperation is highly appreciated. Let me use this opportunity to extend our appreciation and thanks to the sponsors of this major technical cooperation programme which the Gas Centre is. It has successfully completed five years of its operations. We will hear later the results of yesterday’s session and programme of work for the future. Certainly it is the future that matters.
I should also say that last year the Advisory Board of the Gas Centre elected its new Bureau - the current Chairman is Mr.George H.B. Verberg, Chief Executive Officer of Gasunie and the Vice-Chairmen represent top management of Gaz de France, Gazprom and Polish Oil and Gas Company. I am also pleased to introduce to you a new Programme Manager of the Gas Centre - Mr. Tans van Kleef and I wish him all the success in his new job.
This year will certainly be a year of new challenges and opportunities for gas industries and it will add new elements to the work of the Gas Centre. Most of the gas companies and organizations represented at this meeting are members of the Gas Centre and they help to implement its programme of work, however I would like to invite those companies which are not yet its members, to join the Centre.
Your work is growing in importance. This is due to the major changes undergoing in the today’s energy market in Europe, and in the gas market in particular. In Europe we are witnessing new challenges linked to the opening-up and liberalization of the gas market, EU Gas Directive implementation, lack of stability oil prices, increasing demands leading to concerns about import dependency in some countries as well as to strong environmental concerns. As a result, the issue of energy security is again with us, on the political agenda and among major public concerns. This increases the need to work together on gas.
This morning we will also have a chance to consider these issues in the open discussion, following the presentation by Ms. Commeau from the European Commission of the "Green Paper" - a document which analyses the current and forecasts future situation with regard to the security of energy supply to the European Union.
You will also be informed of the latest developments in the markets of gas-driven vehicles - both natural gas and LPG. And in line with this information, representatives from Vernadsky Ecological Foundation (Russian Federation) will present a "Blue Corridor" project on the use of gaseous fuels in transboundary vehicle traffic.
It is both a heavy, but also an interesting agenda that is ahead of you and I would now like to conclude by wishing you a very successful session. You have much work ahead of you. I look forward to your recommendations.
Thank you for your attention.