Mari?n Jakub?cy: Eastring Will Enhance Vertical Gas Corridor's Transit Role

Diplomatic Channel |Author: Angel Petrov | June 29, 2015, Monday // 10:18|  views

Photo by Slovak Embassy in Bulgaria

Novinite has interviewed H.E. Mari?n Jakub?cy, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Slovak Republic to the Republic of Bulgaria since 2013.

Our conversation with Mr Jakub?cy comes just as Slovakia is ending is one-year rotational presidency of the Visegrad Four (Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic) on June 30.  

Mr Jakub?cy has taken several offices at his country's Ministry of Foreign Affairs since 2013. He has been 3rd Secretary at the Slovakian Embassy to Moscow (1998-2002) and Deputy Head of Mission in Berlin (2005-2009). He speaks English, German and Russian.

The Visegrad Group countries organized earlier this year a workshop on good practices in e-governance. What are the most important things Bulgaria could learn from the four states - and from Slovakia in particular?

I consider the workshop you mentioned to be successful. It consisted of two parts: one was dedicated to the exchange of experience on the state of e-government in the Visegrad Four [abbreviated V4 further in the text] and in Bulgaria. In the other one, the companies concerned put forward their products and applications which they could offer in Bulgaria. As regards Slovakia, we launched our e-services at the end of 2013. They are much related to the everyday life of citizens, for instance registration of permanent residence or its change, registration of vehicles, including change in ownership. You can receive an e-copy of the car's history and information about its vehicle inspections. Also in December 2013 we started issuing electronic identity documents, they are owned by some 800 000 citizens - about 20% of the population. Together with the electronic signature they allow citizens to use e-services. The latter could also be used by legal entities and companies which can submit electronic tax statements. We also started the "E-market" project which allows the state administration to procure different goods and services - from computers and to injections or construction services. The state institution submits its demand to the system and the registered suppliers offer their price. Everybody can see the prices and submit a lower price for the order.

About 6000 companies are registered as suppliers for the state administration. As a result, public procurement is transparent, and costs are becoming lower. Another example: the so-called intelligent police car, or software and hardware installed in a police car which, apart from classic activities such as speed detection and recording, are able to recognize a car's registration and identify its owner, and also the car itself. The equipment maintains a link to the car owners database and also to the one for stolen vehicles. This year some 800 [police cars] will be equipped with this system. And since we know that the issue is of current importance in Bulgaria as well, the company which carries out the activity in Slovakia took part in the workshop and made its proposal.  
In what other areas could Slovakia and Bulgaria cooperate - bilaterally or within the V4 framework?

Slovakia's V4 presidency ends on June 30, so I would like to concentrate on what we carried out during our term. We had a meeting of Agriculture Ministers from the group along with respective ministers from Bulgaria and Romania. We had very intensive cooperation with Bulgaria and Romania on the so-called "climate package". We had meetings with the Environment Minister. Our cooperation, within the V4, with other states is quite a pragmatic one. And when more countries are [brought together], we stand a bigger chance to score a success within the EU.

Recently the Craiova Group for cooperation between Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia was set up. Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta, who was the main driving force, said the group would be modelled after the V4. Do you think the two groups could cooperate?

The so-called Craiova format is still a very young one. Within the Visegrad Group we have a V4+ format, which means cooperation with other states or groups. I would like also to add something quite significant on cooperation within the V4. We cooperate within those areas where we have the possibility to reach agreement. Where we have common interests. If it turns out that we don't or that our positions diverge, then we don't cooperate. But we make no drama about this. During our presidency we organized about 140 events - one every two days. We think we are really capable of achieving common interest. I consider this kind of cooperation attractive for other states or formations and groups as well. I would mention for instance the meeting of V4 Prime Ministers with French President Francois Hollande which took place a few days ago, but also cooperation with Western Balkan states or the Baltics. I could in no way rule out cooperation with the Craiova Group. But to tell the truth I think we should first wait to see how it will develop.

For Slovakia the presidency of V4 will soon be over, but the rotational Council of EU presidency will begin. How is the country preparing for it and what organizational experience could it pass on to Bulgaria, whose turn is coming two years later?

Starting points and priorities were approved by our government as early as 2012 - four years before the presidency is to begin. Intensive preparations started last year. First we started to solve logistics and personal issues. It is always important to determine first what a presidency means and what it brings. In these 6 months of our presidency there will be around 100-150 events which will take place in Slovakia. This means we will have to find suitable spaces and prepare people. The presiding country chairs meetings of over 200 workgroups, there will be 900 sessions. This means language preparation, expert preparation, negotiation capacities, as well as negotiation management skills. We are now beginning to enforce our diplomatic mission in Brussels. We suppose the number of diplomats there will be doubled. We rented a large building which will be opened at a ceremony on July 1. We launched preparations to receive people who will work with us during the entire term of the presidency. But the most important thing is the preparation at the respective ministries, since sectoral policies are now the most important thing in the EU.

And last but not least, of course, is the presentation potential brought about by the presidency not only within the EU, but also in third countries and in international institutions. So we are in a situation similar to Bulgaria - for the first time we will be a presiding state and we have to prepare. We are in contact with the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry, we had negotiations with Deputy PM Meglena Kuneva, where we shared our experience so far. I believe such exchange of experience will continue, since we are now gaining more and we are ready to share it.

There has been much discussion about the Easting pipeline recently. What motivates Slovakia to put it forward: is this about a last-ditch effort to save transit via Ukraine which Russia is intending to stop in 2019?

Eastring in a project proposed by Eustream - an independent Slovak operator of the gas transit network. The Slovak Republic is the majority owner of this company. Eustream is an important player in Europe in terms of gas transit - some 10% of the continent's gas consumption were transported through it in 2014. He, of course, has competition in the fact of Yamal and Nord Stream. And transit via the Slovak Republic is on the ebb, so Eustream is naturally looking for opportunities to cope with the situation. An important point in the Eastring project is the fact that it offers diversification of both sources and routes - it proposes interconnectivity where it is not present at the moment, thus boosting energy security in Southeast Europe. I wouldn't say the key moment is to save gas transit via Ukraine, since a very important activity of Eustream nowadays are the reverse supplies to Ukraine. With the Eastring project, Eustream is also trying to carry out what it normally does - gas transit.

What are the opportunities to connect to other sources, and also to the so-called Vertical Gas Corridor [a project that will unite the gas grids of Bulgaria, Romania, and Greece]?

The Vertical Gas Corridor, a regional project, is in our opinion fully compatible with Eastring. We consider that through its connection to Eastring the Vertical Gas Corridor will even enhance its role. For example, the gas delivered to Europe by the Greek LNG terminal could be transited through Eastring. So Eustream with its Eastring project is open to such types of collaboration and we can achieve through it the synergy effect. In fact Eastring will connect gas hubs in Western Europe with the existing gas links in Turkey - interconnectors through which gas could be delivered from another places such as Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, let's not leave out Iran. And as the flow runs both ways, this offers an opportunity for transit of gas from Western to Eastern Europe and vice versa.

Why did Slovakia resist migrant quotas for such a long time?

Slovakia has never accepted proposals to introduce mandatory quotas as a good solution. First, we did not think this is a systematic one, since it orders refugees where they should go. Mandatory quotas were in fact against the conclusions of the April summit when the option to receive [migrants] on a voluntary basis was discussed. Today we had to solve a situation in which the allocation of 40 000 migrants was on the table. But we all know that migrants willing to come to Europe are ten times more. How are we looking for the solution then?

We have to cooperate within the EU and for the sake of distinguishing those who really need political asylum and those who are economic migrants. The reasons for the problem should be addressed, meaning: why these people arrive in Europe. We have always underlined that we are ready to accept measures in line with EU solidarity. And we are ready to demonstrate it and act accordingly. At the same time we have stressed the important role of the so-called "frontline states". Last but not least, we are standing up for the position that through mandatory quotas we would actually help traffickers. To conclude I would only like to add, since we began with the V4: we showed our disagreement with mandatory quotas through a joint statement of the group, and this is a concrete example of cooperation.

In other words, you consider the European Council's decision to turn down quotas and adopt voluntary relocation to be a success?

It definitely is a success.

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Tags: Marian Jakubocy, Bulgaria, Visegrad Group, Visegrad Four, V4, Craiova Group, Eastring, gas, transit, Eustream, Vertical Gas Corridor, migrants, Council of EU, presidency, Yamal, Nord Stream


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