EU Energy Policy: A late awakening

A mutualisation of energy governance needed

, by Translated by Simona Vieru, Lionel Luttenbacher

All the versions of this article: [English] [français]

EU Energy Policy: A late awakening

The world-wide high demand of electrical power risks to explode in the following years, whereas it is not sure that the offer could be carried out. The increase of price, that is the supply rupture, threatens the independence of national electrical power and we can only imagine the economic and social consequences. Well aware if this issue, France has adopted a policy aiming at keeping down the damaging effects of this situation.

Meanwhile, the two issues concerning the future of the electrical power in France (i.e. the supply security and the energy-supply independence) need cooperation between states as well as an international policy meant to promote stability in the energy field.

The supply security

Despite the existence of high standards regarding the energy efficiency and given the real need for gas in supplying electricity and oil for means of transport, oil and gas will still represent more than half of the European Union’s electrical power needs.

The European Union maintains highly privileged relations with gas suppliers such as Norway, Algeria, and Russia. The European Commission advises European countries, in “An Energy Policy for Europe” [1] to strengthen these ties and search in the same time a way to vary their supply source so as to reduce their dependency.

The Commission also suggests the forming of gas platforms in Central Europe and the Baltic states in order to strengthen the national production. In the same time, it proposes the improvement of ways of stocking gas and oil.

The importance of relations with Russia

The partnership European Union-Russia is very important for France, at this precise moment. Russia is at the moment the main EU gas provider through the Gazprom group. The energy question bears a crucial dimension to the relations between the Union and its important Eastern neighbour.

In October 2000, the two partners have engaged in a dialogue that might end up in a new agreement replacing the partnership and cooperation agreement existing for about ten years. The Europeans notably demand from the Russians to adopt clear juridical norms so as to secure their investments and have a transparent beginning.

The negotiations could have started on the occasion of the Helsinki summit, in November 2006, but the representatives of the European Union were not able to settle an agreement because of Poland’s opposition. “It is very important that the EU and Russia have a clear and common understanding of their mutual needs in the energy field” declared Commission President José Manuel Barroso. “We have interdependent interests and the cooperation between us will be beneficial to both partners,” Barroso added.

The Commission and “energy diplomacy”

For the Commission, “energy must become an important factor of all the European Union’s external relations. If the EU wants to comply with world-wide objectives concerning the diminishing of the greenhouse effect and the supply security, then it has to properly negotiate with its partners.

Commission invites EU member states to establish a real “energy diplomacy”

For the next three years, the Commission emits, in its above mentioned paper “An Energy Policy for Europe”, some priority axes of a future European “energy diplomacy”:

 play an important role in concluding international agreements on climate change, especially in light of the perspectives of the after-Kyoto period;

 to create at the European borders (Ukraine, Turkey, the Maghreb) a link between countries so as to share common rules and principle drawn from the energy European policy and mutual profits between Europe and its eventual partners, either through the European Neighbourhood Policy or the Barcelona process;

 to improve the relations with our external suppliers through transparency and reciprocity; the Commission demands the closing of a framework-agreement with Russia;

 to help the new developing countries acquire new energetic objectives, mainly through technological transfers. The Commission invites the Council to establish an Africa-Europe partnership as soon as possible so as to diminish the recent Chinese aggressive strategy in the energy field;

 to facilitate the creation of rival organizations of the traditional alliances existing between the producing countries (e.g. OPEC) in order to increase competition and thus diminish prices;

 to set up an Assembly, which includes the most important energy consumers (USA, China and India).

The Commission invites EU member states to establish a real “energy diplomacy” in order to assure a secure supplying-method and to have a common voice in global negotiations on climate change.

Independent energy policy

A European energy policy is a must both from a political and social point of view. It is important from a geopolitical point of view because it is all about the economic and political survival of the EU in front of other great powers already using energy as a political and economic weapon; from a social point of view due to its impact on the survival of the species and quality of life in the EU. This policy must reach a satisfactory degree of independence, which must be determined by European leaders. In order to do so, the Commission proposes certain number of recommendations.

First of all, the regional cooperation must encourage the difficult coexistence between a European energy policy and a national one. Thus, the “regional” echelon grouping together the Member States seems relevant from the point of view of efficiency and quick solving of all these actions. One first example is the implementation of the so-called market coupling, which allowed the optimization of the Franco-Belgian-Dutch interrelations since November 2006.

Second, the Commission foresees the improvement of the CO2 market. In this respect, it is advisable to diminish the quotas pertaining to the manufacturers. There must be an expansion of the targets of quota markets of all activities, of all fields, making reference moreover to the lodging and transport field; and this triggers for example taxes on trucks’ tonnage, airplane transport and/or the introduction of a green vignette.

Furthermore, this research must meet the efforts of Member States. In fact, at the European level this research and the innovation are great stakes. For example, France is innovating in the technological and bioplastics fields while Spain tries its innovating skills in the solar photovoltaic field. The cooperation between Universities and the industrial field must also be strengthened both on the European and national level by creating networks animated by an organism.

Finally, the energy efficiency must be strengthened. There must be strict norms regarding the energy supply and some could be applied as soon as possible (surveillance of electrical devices, vehicles…)

In conclusion, as demonstrated above, the necessity of a mutualisation of our energy governance is an absolute priority which can be really effective only through an impulse given by a single political entity and not by 27 different states in an intergovernmental framework subjected to the rule of unanimity.

The last developments in energy relations with Russia and Russia’s blackmail reveal a Europe lacking political unity, especially in the energy supply issue.

Image taken from the multimedia library of the European Commission


[1Communication from the Commission to the European Council and the European Parliament of 10 January 2007, click here to read the summary

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