The Energy Charter Conference held its 24th Meeting on 5-6 December 2013. The Meeting took place in Nicosia, Cyprus, at the kind invitation and with valuable support of the Ministry of Energy, Commerce, Industry and Tourism of Cyprus. More than 140 high-level delegates from almost 90 countries attended this important event. The first day of the Meeting was dedicated to a Ministerial Session titled "15 Years of Energy Investment Promotion and Protection under the Energy Charter Treaty". The second day focused on the statutory part of the Meeting, where the work and management of the Energy Charter as an organisation were discussed by member delegations.
With the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT) designed to create a level playing field for energy investments throughout the Charter constituency, the Ministerial Session concentrated on the first fifteen years of practice and theory of energy investment promotion and protection under the ECT, with a special focus on investment arbitration. The Session was opened by Mr. Yiorgos Lakkotrypis, Cypriot Minister of Energy, Commerce, Industry and Tourism. Minister Lakkotrypis highlighted the contribution of the Energy Charter Treaty to the security and promotion of energy investments,
"investments that bring energy across borders and seas, between the countries of Eurasia".
The Energy Charter Secretariat made a presentation on the ways of promoting energy investments and such recent trends as the regional approach to international investment agreements. The Secretariat also proposed several means of improving the efficiency of investor-state dispute settlement procedures under the Energy Charter Treaty. Among others, these proposals included bringing in transparency requirements, gaining more control over the interpretation of ECT provisions and introducing conciliation procedures.
The discussion was enriched by the contributions of the UNECE Executive Secretary Mr. Sven Alkalaj, UNCTAD Deputy Secretary General Dr. Petko Draganov, UNCITRAL Principal Legal Officer Mr. Timothy Lemay and OECD Senior Legal Adviser Mr. David Gaukrodger. These speakers underlined the complementary nature of their organisations' and the Energy Charter's work in the field of investor-state dispute settlement.
A distinguished panel of academics also made presentations on the recent trends in international investment agreements, such as regionalisation and integration of sustainable development concerns in the decision-making process.
The Ministerial Session was also the setting for the very first Energy Charter Award ceremony. The Award was presented to Mr. Ruud Lubbers, the former Prime Minister of the Netherlands, for his outstanding role in the development of the Energy Charter Process. Largely considered to be the founding father of the Energy Charter, it was Mr. Lubbers who launched the initiative to establish a commonly accepted foundation for developing energy cooperation among the states of Eurasia and beyond. The Award was presented by Minister Lakkotrypis and the Energy Charter Secretary General Rusnák and collected on behalf of Mr. Lubbers by the Dutch Ambassador to Cyprus Ms. Brechje Schwachöfer.
The Statutory Session of the Conference Meeting proved to be a milestone in the process of Energy Charter modernisation. The Conference approved a new system of the organisation's chairmanship designed to encourage the member countries' political ownership of the Charter Process. From 2014 individual countries will chair the Conference on an annual basis. Kazakhstan will be the first country to assume this important role from 1 January 2014. Recognising the challenges lying ahead and the opportunities arising from the ongoing modernisation processes within the Charter, Kazakhstan is looking forward to leading the Charter in the coming year. In 2015 Georgia will chair the organisation, and in 2016 – Japan.
Negotiations on an updated version of the 1991 Energy Charter will begin in January 2014, following the formal adoption of the negotiation mandate by the Conference during the Statutory Session. The Charter, which is the political declaration at the heart of the whole Energy Charter Process, will be updated to better reflect the new realities of the global energy sector and to better serve the interests of existing and potential new Charter Process participants.
In 2014 the Energy Charter as an organisation will undergo a regular review by its member countries, carried out every five years in accordance with the provisions of the Energy Charter Treaty. The conclusions of this review will feed into the process of Charter modernisation.
Another highlight of the Statutory Session was the confirmation of the progression of the Charter’s expansion and outreach policy. The Conference approved the reports prepared by the Montenegrin government and invited Montenegro to accede to the Energy Charter Treaty. Ninety days after the country finalises its domestic ratification procedures and officially informs the ECT depository, it will become the newest member of the Energy Charter Treaty.
The Conference also formally invited Yemen and Lebanon to sign the 1991 Energy Charter, following these countries' respective requests. By signing the Charter countries obtain observer status with the organisation and make the first step towards eventually acceding to the Energy Charter Treaty. It is expected that the signing ceremonies for both Yemen and Lebanon will take place in early 2014.
Delegations also approved the reports of Charter Group Chairmen on the Groups' activities throughout 2013 and approved the Energy Charter Secretariat's budget and programme of work for the following year.
The 25th Meeting of the Energy Charter Conference was announced to take place in Astana, Kazakhstan, in November 2014.