Energy security has always been a top priority on political agendas, and remains one of the main factors of mutual interest to NATO and its partners. Inability to merge scientific, political and practical approaches on this issue has had detrimental effects for regional security. Insufficient exchange of information and a very limited interaction on energy security among scientific, private and governmental sectors needs to be dealt with urgently. At NATO Warsaw Summit in 2016, the Heads of State and Government noted that energy developments can have significant political and security implications for Allies and the Alliance, as demonstrated by the crises to NATO's east and south. A stable and reliable energy supply, the diversification of import routes, suppliers and energy resources, and the interconnectivity of energy networks are of critical importance and increase our resilience against political and economic pressure.
Therefore, an Advanced Research Workshop “Addressing Emerging Security Risks for Energy Flows over South Caucasus” took place on 5–6 of December 2016 in Tbilisi. It was organized by the General Jonas Žemaitis Military Academy of the Republic of Lithuania and Ilia State University of the Republic of Georgia with support of NATO Science for Peace and Security (SPS) program. Valuable assistance was provided by the Romanian Embassy in Tbilisi as NATO POC and the World Experience for Georgia. The objective was to provide a thorough review of the main emerging security risks to critical energy infrastructure (CEI) and address the issues set out in NATO Warsaw Summit Communiqué.
The event harnessed efforts of scholars specializing in energy security, practitioners dealing with energy infrastructure, safety and critical energy projects, industry representatives, NATO and EU experts, civil society and governmental agencies. The workshop was attended by the representatives of NATO, US State Department, the Ministry of Energy of Georgia, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, NATO Energy Security Center of Excellence, NATO liaison office in Tbilisi, the General Jonas Žemaitis Military Academy of the Republic of Lithuania, Ilia State University, World Experience for Georgia, Vytautas Magnus University, Nazarbayev University, Graduate Institute in Geneva, Center of Strategic Studies under President of Azerbaijan, Data Exchange Agency of Georgia, Centre for Global Studies Strategy XXI in Ukraine, Center for study of Democracy in Bulgaria, Baku State University, Energy Charter, Jan Wyzykowski University, Startfor, Methinks and the European Geopolitical Forum
In the keynote speech, the Deputy Minister of Energy of Georgia Mrs. Mariam Valishvili underscored that the oil and gas pipelines, set through the strong western support including US, European and other NATO member countries, have played a significant role in preserving the political independence and economic development of the countries in the region by keeping them linked to the international markets and in the focus of international western interests. The importance of energy security at NATO and partners' political agenda was strongly highlighted in welcoming words by NATO senior expert Michael Gaule. The Commandant of the General Jonas Žemaitis Military Academy col. Raimundas Matulis offered to look carefully at the lessons learnt in the Baltic States and expressed desire to share the experience in crafting credible energy security policy tools. The experts noted that a further extension of energy transit potential over the Southern Caucasus the Concept of Southern Gas Corridor has been conceived including SCPx, TANAP and TAP but also the Trans-Caspian and other Projects of common interest, to connect the countries of Central Asia and Caucasus to Europe and the rest of the world by crossing the Caspian Sea and the Black sea. As co-director of the project Mr. Murman Margvelashvili noted, assuring the security of existing and potential energy flows over Southern gas corridor has been identified as one of the strategic interests for European Energy Security but it is also a major factor of security for the supplier and transit countries in the region.
The workshop consisted of six major panels along with field trip to Military Scientific Technical Center DELTA premises in Tbilisi. The panels addressed great number of issues placing a heavy emphasis on the importance of energy transit function of Georgia and South Caucasus. It reviewed the existing and future energy transit projects including Southern Gas Corridor (SCPx, Trans-Caspian pipeline, TANAP, TAP, AGRI, White Stream etc.), potential flows of oil and power. The areas of common interest and forms of cooperation between consumer (EU, Turkey), producer (Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan) and transit (Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey) countries were debated. Furthermore, new security challenges raised by increased terrorist threat and potential military actions or induced political instability, in view of current state of technology development were analyzed through the threats to new strategic energy transit projects in the region. There was discussion on the recent trends in technology for damaging and protection of critical energy infrastructure and readiness of the countries to respond to the challenges raised by new technologies. The participants identified the potential forms of cooperation for security, between the countries of the region and NATO at different levels to provide adequate strategic and tactical safeguards against emerging threats.