Informal energy platform brings dialogue closer to home

OPEC Bulletin Commentary April 2013

OPEC's ties with Vienna stretch back nearly half a century and have always been of a friendly, constructive and mutually beneficial nature.

Secretary General, Abdalla Salem El-Badri, described the Republic of Austria and City of Vienna in 2010 as "warm and generous hosts to the Secretariat since we moved to this grand, historic city in 1965."

At the same time - that is, the 50th anniversary celebrations of OPEC's establishment five years before the move to Vienna - Austrian Foreign Minister, Michael Spindelegger, referred to "fruitful cooperation" and "an excellent relationship" between OPEC and Austria. Vienna's Mayor, Dr Michael Häupl, remarked: "OPEC is an important factor for Vienna and we are happy, grateful and proud to have been the host city for this Organization for the past 45 years. Without any doubt, OPEC is important for us - culturally, for our international reputation and, of course, it is an economic asset for our city."

Vienna and OPEC have each witnessed many fine achievements since 1965.

Vienna's growth as a centre of international organizations has proved a resounding success, and Austria's joining the European Union (EU) in 1995 - at a time of other major changes in Europe - raised its profile even further. During this time too, Vienna has reinforced its centuries-long standing as one of the world's cultural capitals and it has repeatedly appeared at or near the top of global surveys of desirable cities to live in.

OPEC arrived in Vienna in 1965 as a small group of seven oil-exporting developing countries determined to remove longstanding injustices in an international oil market that was dominated by entrenched consumer-country interests and to assert their sovereign rights to run their own oil industries and derive fair and reasonable benefits from sales of their crude. Within ten years of coming here, important grievances had been addressed by the Organization and its Member Countries and it was well on its way to becoming a major player in the international energy community. At around the same time, it set up the major development finance institution, the OPEC Fund for International Development, also based in Vienna.

One of OPEC's proudest achievements over the past 30 years has been the active encouragement it has given to dialogue and cooperation within the oil industry. Big strides with OPEC/non-OPEC dialogue were made in the 1980s and this broadened out into the producer-consumer sphere in the 1990s. This culminated in some important new processes of dialogue in which OPEC and its Vienna-based Secretariat have been heavily involved. These include the establishment of the Ministerial-level specialist producer-consumer dialogue body, the International Energy Forum, and a series of bilateral processes, of which the EU-OPEC Energy Dialogue is of most direct relevance to the Organization's relationship with the Austrian capital.

However, despite all these welcome advances with dialogue, very little has actually happened on OPEC's doorstep - that is, with other intergovernmental bodies in and around Vienna.

That is why we were pleased to join a new platform for energy dialogue when it was set up in 2009, the Vienna Energy Club (VEC), as one of its eight original members.

The club's objective is to bring together a group of Vienna-based international organizations dealing with energy to provide an informal platform for discussions and exchanges of views. As its official mandate states, it seeks to act "in a spirit of cooperation and constructive endeavour, and in the overall interests of energy harmony within Vienna."

OPEC hosted the eighth biannual meeting of the VEC at the Secretariat in late-February. In his welcoming address, El-Badri said that the club had proven that Vienna had become 'an energy hub'. He continued: "Close engagement among various parties, such as those here today, is critical for sharing ideas, developing a better appreciation of various viewpoints and seeing where we can evolve some common understanding." He said that this reflected the strength of Vienna as a centre of influence in the global energy community.

Clearly, every addition to energy dialogue helps the process at large across the world. The VEC is, without any doubt, an example of this with the broad, influential international outreach of its member organizations and their commitment to a better global order.

This is why, in OPEC, we believe it is important to participate in it.

OPEC Bulletin April 2013

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