Chapter 3: Past and present of energy security in Mediterranean countries
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Energy security in Mediterranean countries has been a major concern since the early twentieth century when military needs dictated the switch from coal to oil. The link between energy and politics further strengthened during World War II. Energy also became an important factor in the “Cold War”, and Middle Eastern oil was considered an important factor for the success of Western alliance. This meant that European countries reduced their reliance on domestic coal and became dependent on oil from the Middle East. The impact of decisions taken within the Marshall Plan significantly changed the geography of energy supplies: Europe began to be reliant on oil from the Middle East, reducing the level of energy autonomy which in previous years had been afforded by domestic coal production. The first post-war oil crisis (1951-1952) showed that the growing dependence of Europe on Middle Eastern oil created enormous problems for the security of energy supplies. The Suez crisis of 1956-1957 represented another major shock for international oil markets, since about 70% of oil exported from the Middle East to Europe was shipped through the Suez Canal, which connects the Mediterranean to the Red Sea. In 1960, during a conference organized in Baghdad, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) was created with the aim of acquiring full control over oil production and prices. Since the early 1960s Libya has become one of the leading oil exporting countries. Thanks to oil exports, Libya became not only financially self-reliant but wealthy enough to influence other countries. With the 1969 revolution, Gaddafi and a group of young officers ousted the monarchy. The Arab oil embargo of 1973-1974 represented a watershed in terms of security of energy supply in the Mediterranean area. The worst crisis for the oil markets was about to come: the Iranian revolution of 1978-1979 caused panic and a rapid increase in oil prices. The Persian Gulf crisis represented the first oil crisis to occur after the end of the Cold War. When Saddam Hussein’s Iraq invaded Kuwait, international markets had another jolt, since the new war became a geopolitical oil crisis, and the oil question was one of the reasons for the anti-Iraqi reaction.

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