European Union leaders urged the bloc’s energy regulator to propose a strategy to strengthen the internal market and boost security after the conflict in eastern Ukraine jeopardized supplies from Russia.
EU heads of government called on the European Commission to present a comprehensive energy-union proposal “well ahead” of their next gathering in March, according to a political statement adopted at today’s summit in Brussels. Leaders of the EU’s 28 member states also discussed a 315 billion-euro ($387 billion) investment plan proposed by the commission.
The EU regulator has signaled it wants to release a plan in the first quarter of next year to accelerate cross-border gas and power interconnections, remove market barriers and diversify sources of energy while reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. The Ukrainian crisis highlighted the need for Europe to cut its energy dependence on Russia, which supplied 27 percent of the natural gas consumed in the EU last year.
“The leaders clearly want to keep the pressure on the commission,” said Christian Egenhofer, a researcher at the Centre for European Policy Studies in Brussels. “I see the energy union as the nucleus of a very delicate balance between very different interests of member states on policies ranging from energy security to climate.”
A common energy policy among member states is supported by 73 percent of EU citizens, according to a Eurobarometer survey published yesterday. Europe is set to miss its deadline for completing work on the internal market by 2014, with several member states lagging behind with enactment of energy laws. Reducing imports is another challenge for the region, which buys 53 percent of the energy it consumes from external suppliers at a cost of 1 billion euros per day, according to the commission.
Today’s call by the EU leaders highlights the role that the development of an energy union will play in strengthening Europe’s energy security and driving its climate and renewable energy agenda, according to Morten Helveg Petersen, a Danish member of the European Parliament.
“We must ensure, however, that the commission delivers a genuine energy union with a view to developing a genuine internal market for energy, overcoming the barriers caused by inward looking national energy policies and poor coordination of cross border infrastructure and interconnection,” he said by e-mail today.
The energy-union plan is set to be based on five pillars: security of supply; integration of national markets; reduction of energy demand; cutting carbon dioxide; and promoting research and innovation, according to a commission document drafted last month. It will be funded through the commission’s investment plan, according to the document.