NEW YORK – Forget, for a moment, Barack Obama, Angela Merkel, David Cameron, François Hollande, and all dreams of a renaissance in traditional transatlantic relations. Far from the catwalks of vanity in the White House, Berlin’s Chancellery, 10 Downing Street, or the Élysée Palace, two often-underestimated transatlantic actors – the European Union and Canada – have embarked on an important and timely initiative.
The recently announced EU-Canada Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) aims to deepen bilateral ties in “all fields of cooperation,” including education, transport, energy, the Arctic, and science and technology, as well as provide for enhanced foreign-policy cooperation, with a focus on crisis management and security. While the technical and legal details still need to be ironed out, the SPA – together with the recently negotiated bilateral Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) – highlights the growing importance of the EU-Canada relationship.
One of the most significant areas of potential cooperation has not yet received sufficient attention: Canadian energy exports to Europe. But, given Russia’s recent incursion into Ukraine, which has forced Western European countries to reconsider their heavy reliance on Russian energy, that may be about to change.
So far, most discussions in Europe regarding how to reduce Russian energy imports – which account for 34% of the EU’s gas consumption – have focused on the United States, where the rapid development of shale reserves has made a huge supply of gas available for export. But Canada could also play a crucial role as a reliable, long-term strategic energy partner for Europe.