(Geneva, 21-22 January 2003)
Statement by Mrs. Brigita Schmögnerová,
Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Delegates,
It is a pleasure for me to welcome you to the thirteenth session of the Working Party on Gas. It is the first time since my appointment as Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Europe that I have had the opportunity to address you.
I see that your meeting is very well attended and it is no wonder, since the Working Party and its subsidiary bodies provide a unique forum for UNECE 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. I am grateful to see that the gas industries are working closely with the Working Party.
Over the last year, the Working Party on Gas has had a very active and full programme of work. Its successful implementation was due to your active contribution as well as the efforts of your Chairman and the Bureau to move forward the programme of work. This programme is intended to enhance networking and the exchange of information and to promote policy dialogue and the integration of the natural gas industries and natural gas markets of the UNECE region.
The two Ad Hoc Group of Experts that work under your guidance, namely on "Natural Gas Resources" and on the "Supply and Use of Gas" have also demonstrated excellent results over the years.
The Group on the Supply and Use of Gas, which meets right after the session of the Working Party, will consider and eventually approve consolidated reports on two important projects related to norms and standards, namely on "Technological and ecological norms related to the operation of gas distribution networks" and on "Standards on permissible concentrations of harmful components during gas combustion". There will also be a lecture on new technologies applied in the diagnostics of gas transmission lines, which is closely related to natural gas and the environment. In the past, this Group has contributed to the implementation of major regional studies, such as "Interconnection and Extension of Gas Networks in Europe" and "Underground Storage of Gas in Europe and Central Asia".
The programme of work of the Ad Hoc Group of Experts on Natural Gas Resources is dedicated to upstream activities of the gas industry, e.g. those related to prospecting, exploration and development of gas fields. These topics are crucial not only for the successful performance of the gas industry but also for sustainable development. Among the major projects underway by this Group can be mentioned the "International Map of Gas Fields in Europe", "New Methods of Gas Exploration" and the "Assessment of Natural Gas Resources".
However, we have noted, with regret, that in recent years only a small number of delegations have been attending annual sessions of this Group and contributions by national experts to the implementation of projects have not always been sufficient and complete. In the light of this, the continuation of this Ad Hoc Group of Experts and its programme of work has been called into question. At its twenty-fifth session held last June in Geneva, delegations could not come to a final decision with regard to the future of the Ad Hoc Group of Experts. They requested the Working Party to do so. I hope that you will thoroughly consider the issue and will take the appropriate decision on the matter.
Nine years ago, in January 1994, your Working Party approved and established a technical cooperation programme, which is widely known today as the UNECE Gas Centre. During the first few years of operations, it contributed considerably to the efforts of the formally planned economies to adapt and convert their gas industries to market conditions. Today, it is actively involved in issues related to the process of opening up and liberalizing gas markets as well as enhancing overall cooperation on natural gas matters in the region. Yesterday, there was a meeting of the Executive Board of the Gas Centre, which approved its budget and programme of work for the year 2003. Most of the gas companies represented in this room are members of the Gas Centre and help to implement its programme of work. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the many companies, organizations and governments for their valuable contribution to the work of the Gas Centre.
As indicated in the agenda of the meeting, delegations will make statements and give preliminary results of the gas industry and gas markets operations in 2002 in their countries. It would be also interesting to learn of the new policies, including environmental policies, conservation programmes and new international projects applied by the gas industries.
A representative from the Energy Charter Secretariat will make a presentation on the Euro-Asian natural gas market and reflect on the outcome of the recent negotiations on the Energy Charter Protocol on Transit. We will also have an update of the energy and gas market developments in North America, e.g. US and Canada. Representatives of various international organizations will present the results of their activities in the field of gas, including use of gaseous fuels for transportation. A representative of the Vernadsky Foundation will report on the progress achieved in the implementation of the intersectoral ECE project "Blue Corridor".
Today, energy markets in Europe, and gas markets in particular, are undergoing major changes. The opening up and liberalization of gas markets, the implementation of the EU Gas Directive, fluctuating oil prices, secure energy supplies and, finally, the recent decision by the EU on the enlargement of its membership - these are the issues that attract attention not only of energy experts, but politicians in Europe as well. The UNECE is an ideal forum for policy dialogue on these topics, since it gives an opportunity for countries and experts, sometimes with different, or conflicting interests, to discuss and exchange views on various issues.
I am therefore pleased to note that in a few minutes you will have an excellent opportunity to welcome at this podium a group of very eminent and distinguished experts who will be panellists for the Round Table on a "Wider Europe and New Challenges for the Energy Sector". This Round Table is the first in a series of events to be organized by the Economic Commission for Europe this year, on different sectoral issues, and which will culminate with one or more wrap up sessions (e.g., Seminars or Conferences) on this topic.
As you see, you have a heavy and interesting agenda ahead of you, and I would like to close by wishing you a very successful session and by thanking all of you for your participation and the very valuable support given to the Working Party over the years.
Thank you for your attention.