The regulatory state model has traditionally been used to analyse the process of integrating the European energy sector, including the sensitive area of security of gas supply. This article argues that, due to recent innovations, this conceptualisation has become increasingly problematic and cannot provide an accurate picture of the current governance and politics of European energy security. This article applies the catalytic state model to the EU and contrasts it with the regulatory state approach. The catalytic state describes a peculiar pattern of governance which combines—rather than resolves—the tensions between market-centred and state-centred approaches and supranational and national views on EU energy security. This article also illustrates how this stylised form of state can be used to better frame the guiding principles, strategies and tools that are currently emerging as EU institutions address the issue of security of gas supply.
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This article focuses on security of gas supply, which is a key component of the EU’s energy security strategy, which also includes measures in the areas of renewables and energy efficiency aimed to reduce the EU’s energy dependency (e.g. EC 2014, 2015). These measures are part of the EU’s climate change policy. Efforts to achieve mitigation and sustainability objectives have also contributed to challenging the market paradigm in the EU’s energy governance (e.g. Helm 2005; Kuzemko 2014).
The model of catalytic state—like the model of regulatory state—can be applied to both the national and EU level of government. In a series of previous works, I have applied the catalytic state model to member states at the national level (Prontera 2017, 2018a, b). In this article, I apply this model at the EU level instead by examining the EU as ‘an international state’ (Caporaso 1996: 33).
For a discussion of the concept of guiding principles and its use in the analysis of important ideational elements of energy governance, see Sovacool and Sidorstov (2013).
The partner state model is derived from Andersen (1993). The UK is an exception; its gas market has long differed from that of continental Europe and is not considered in this article.
At first glance, some of the differences sketched here between the regulatory state and the catalytic state in the area of domestic governance might seem to recall the ‘new public management (NPM) versus governance’ debate in public administration (on this debate, see Klijn 2012), with NPM practices associated with the regulatory state model and its market approach and the governance perspective, with its focus on horizontal coordination, closer to the catalytic state. However, neither perspective is fully capable of addressing the differences between these two forms of state in the energy security realm. These perspectives have been mainly applied to the national (or EU) context of public administration, with a focus on services provision (especially integrated services) and delivery. However, this focus is too narrow to cover the international and foreign policy dimension of both the regulatory state model, when it is extended to include its ‘external’ face, and the catalytic state, with its networked patterns of diplomacy. That is to say, the components of energy diplomacy and government–company relations fall outside the NPM versus governance debate. In particular, when considering these elements, NPM’s focus on, for example, agentification, intraorganisational dynamics, contracting out, performance indicators, auditing and control is somehow misleading. Indeed, as anticipated, scholars adopting the lens of the regulatory state model have drawn on the literature on EU external governance to cope with the international dimensions of the regulatory state in the European energy sector (e.g. Goldthau and Sitter 2015; Herranz-Surrallés 2015). This exposes another problem of the NPM versus governance debate: the fact that this debate is possible only if we assume a very narrow and ‘restricted’ definition of governance (Klijn 2012), which is, however, very problematic when we move outside the public administration and public management literature (see also Agranoff and McGuire 2001).
The North–South gas corridor, from the Norwegian and North Seas to the European continent, is not considered because it does not pose risks to security of supply. Norway–EU energy relations are regulated under the EEA framework. Under this framework, Norway functions much like an EU member state in many ways (Talus 2013: 232).
Although an ‘EU status’ was granted to the Nord Stream, this project was heavily contested by some new member states in Eastern Europe, especially the Baltic states and Poland (many concerns were also expressed by the Ukraine and the USA).
See ‘EIB, EBRD and IFC start appraisal of Nabucco pipeline’, 6 September 2010, available at: http://www.eib.org/en/infocentre/press/releases/all/2010/2010-142-eib-ebrd-and-ifc-start-appraisal-of-nabucco-pipeline.htm (accessed 12 January 2019).
Declaration of the European Commission Vice-President for the Energy Union Maroš Šefčovič, available at: https://ec.europa.eu/energy/en/news/southern-gas-corridor-vice-president-%C5%A1ef%C4%8Dovi%C4%8D-attended-ministerial-meeting-baku (accessed 28 December 2018).
See, for example, the letter of support sent in July 2017 by the European Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič and the Climate and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete to the EIB’s president, available at: https://www.scribd.com/document/365626132/Letter-on-Southern-Gas-Corridor#fullscreen&from_embed (accessed 18 October 2018).
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Prontera, A. Beyond the regulatory state: rethinking energy security governance and politics in the European Union. Comp Eur Polit 18, 330–362 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41295-019-00188-z
- Catalytic state
- Energy diplomacy
- EU energy security
- Regulatory state
- Security of gas supply