As the world’s biggest energy consumer, the European Union should explore ways to buy gas as a group, the European Commission’s new Energy Union boss said on Monday (17 November).
The idea was put forward earlier this year by Poland’s then-prime minister Donald Tusk, as one option for standing up to Russia and its state gas company Gazprom. Tusk takes up an EU job as President of the European Council next month.
Many in Brussels said the single buyer plan raised anti-trust issues and was inoperable, even though Tusk’s broader support for a strengthened energy union has gained ground as relations with Russia, the bloc’s biggest energy supplier, have deteriorated.
Maroš Šef?ovi??, who took office as vice-president for Energy Union at the start of this month, said Europe could adopt a step-by-step approach.
“We are the biggest energy consumer in the world. We pay our bills on time,” he told a Brussels conference. “We should do our best to explore common purchasing of gas.”
Europe could begin with “a gradual step-by-step approach,” he said.
The EU pays around €400 billion per year for imported fossil fuels and the European Commission, the EU executive, has set as priorities cutting energy use and diversifying supplies, as well as a closer energy union, based on improved infrastructure to share energy across borders.
Among the ways to make progress, Šef?ovi? cited the bloc’s energy efficiency goals and a review meant to strengthen an energy savings target set in October as part of the EU’s 2030 climate and energy policy aims.
Šef?ovi? will also insist on implementing the so-called Third Energy Package, he said. Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly attacked the law that forces energy firms to separate out the ownership of distribution links if they use them to carry their own gas or power.
Crucially, it makes Moscow’s South Stream pipeline illegal, since Gazprom would control the assets as well as the gas it transports.
Moscow is pursuing South Stream to bypass transit nation Ukraine, with which it is locked in conflict following Russia’s annexation of Crimea earlier this year.
Kyiv and Moscow are also at odds over Ukraine’s gas debts to Gazprom. The row has been partly dealt with by EU mediation that has resulted in a temporary solution, which Sefcovic said was holding.
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