Delors advocates new EU treaty

Europe needs a new EU treaty to embark on a common energy policy, former European Commission President Jacques Delors told the European Parliament yesterday (5 May). However, he admitted that there was "fatigue" after putting in place the Lisbon Treaty and suggested adopting a gradual approach towards achieving this goal.

Delors, who is often referred to as one of the 'fathers of Europe', was hosted by European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek, with whom he issued a common statement. Delors presented to MEPs a recent policy paper from his think-tank, Notre Europe, entitled 'Towards a European Energy Community' (see 'Background').

Buzek, who himself is a strong advocate of an EU 'energy community' (EURACTIV 11/12/09), said that on the eve of its 60th anniversary, Europe should seek inspiration from the European Coal and Steel Community, which played a major role in the Union's history at that time.

Buzek also admitted that at first, not all countries would be ready to embark towards establishing an "energy community", which should not prevent those willing to proceed from doing so, as EU countries had done with the Schengen border free area or the euro zone.

The Parliament president called for an energy 'Coalition of the Willing', using the term which gained notoriety in the context of the Iraq war.

Delors said the EU would need a new treaty to create a European Energy Community, "a new EEC". He said that enhanced cooperation under Article 194 of the Lisbon Treaty, which deals with the functioning of the EU energy market, would only serve the first stage for proceeding towards enhanced cooperation.

He was categorical in stating that in the medium term, a new EU treaty would be needed.

"A treaty implies a set of rules respected by all," he insisted.

Energy Commissioner Guenter Oettinger, present at the meeting, insisted that Article 194 was the legal basis for the Commission. Should time prove that the article is not enough to proceed upon, he would come back to Delors' proposal, he said.

Montagues and Capulets

Refering to Shakespeare, the former long-serving Commission president blasted EU members for behaving like "Montagues and Capulets" vis-à-vis Russia and for negotiating gas purchases individually.

The European Union must present a single interface in relations with its external partners, both producer and transit countries. The EU must have the ability to pool its supply capacities and to engage in coordinated energy purchasing, the two leaders said in a written statement.

Background

Europe's existing energy policy is "suboptimal," states Jacques Delors in a policy paper published by Notre Europe, a think-tank founded by the iconic former Commission chief himself (EURACTIV 06/04/10).

Without naming Russia, Delors says that to ensure that no "third country" can engage in targeted reductions of energy supplies, the EU must present a single interface in relations with its external partners.

As not all countries may be ready to embark at once, a differentiated approach is needed, similar to those used in the past, to make major strides forward in the European project, as was the case with the Schengen area and the single currency.

Delors spells out the priorities for countries that wish to move forward as follows:

  • Developing ambitious economic instruments to finance common research and development projects on alternative energies;
  • deepening and structuring cooperation in Europe-wide energy networks, and;
  • setting up oil and gas purchasing groups to facilitate procurement from foreign suppliers, thereby strengthening and focusing EU foreign policy in this field.

Although these steps may appear technical and limited in scope, they will lead to decisive changes, paving the way for greater cooperation and solidarity in the energy field, Delors writes.

Further Reading