EU leaders agree ‘Energy Union’ blueprint

Date: 20 March 2015

Concern over dependence on Russian gas underpins the EU initiative

EU leaders clinched a deal on Thursday (19 March) on measures aimed at reducing dependence on Russian gas and building a so-called Energy Union.

According to summit conclusions, they agreed to “accelerating infrastructure projects, including interconnections in particular to peripheral regions, for electricity and gas to ensure energy security and a well-functioning internal energy market”.

They also said they will be “fully implementing and rigorously enforcing existing energy legislation”.

They call for “ensuring full compliance with EU law of all agreements related to the buying of gas from external suppliers, notably by reinforcing transparency of such agreements and compatibility with EU energy security provisions”.

Donald Tusk, the EU Council chairman, told press that: “All leaders agreed to reinforce transparency in the gas market, so suppliers cannot abuse the position to break EU law, and reduce our energy security”.

Regarding commercial gas supply contracts the deal, however, says “the confidentiality of commercially sensitive information needs to be guaranteed”.

Tusk called the debate on transparency before the signature of gas contracts “maybe the most controversial and more interesting part of our discussion”.

“I feel after today’s decision that when it comes to energy security, all of the member states are ready to co-ordinate and to co-operate with [EU] institutions, with the [European] commission, to be sure that gas contracts are secure for Europe, and in line with European law”, he added. “It’s not an empty conclusion, you can be sure.”

The summit communique also says EU countries are “committed to building an Energy Union” – a phrase propagated by Tusk when he was still prime minister of Poland less than a year ago.

Tusk’s original intention was to create an Energy Union with “a single European body charged with buying its gas” to “confront Russia’s monopolistic position”.

But EU leaders agreed only to “assessing options for voluntary demand aggregation mechanisms in full compliance with WTO [World Trade Organisation] and EU competition rules”.

The final text has some last minute additions to previous drafts in a paragraph which calls on development of “energy and climate-related technology and innovation strategy”.

It gives as examples “on the next generation of renewables, on electricity storage and carbon capture and storage, on improving energy efficiency in the housing sector as well as on sustainable transport”.

Another late addition is that neighbouring countries should be involved.

Meanwhile, leaders reaffirmed that “the right of member states to decide on their own energy mix is respected” and “sovereign rights of member states to explore and develop their natural resources are safeguarded”.

Source: EU Observer.com