The Brief: Commission shows off massive Winter Package

The Brief is's evening newsletter.


The European Commission revealed its “very impressive package” of energy rules today.  While it is undeniably huge, size doesn’t matter, it’s what member states and MEPs do with it that counts.

Landing with an almighty thud, the Winter Package is the Commission’s attempt to grab the opportunity of the unprecedented Paris Agreement with both hands.

Bulging with more than 1,000 pages of reforms, the package was hailed as bigger than The Bible and Gone With The Wind put together. One wag suggested it was more awe-inspiring than Moby Dick.

Energy Union Commissioner Maros Sefcovic and Climate Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete agreed. It was a massive achievement, they said, a most impressive package that a lot of people had worked night and day on.

Despite the sweeping vista of its vision, the focus fell on the target for energy efficiency.

Back in October 2014, before the Paris Agreement was sealed, EU leaders watered down the Commission’s 2030 efficiency target from 30% to 27%.

After a period of unprecedented global climate ambition, the executive edged the goal back up to 30% for energy efficiency, and asked very politely if member states wouldn’t mind if the target was legally binding.

It is true that there is no point in proposing an unrealistic target to member states. But the Council of Ministers’ co-legislator, the European Parliament, has twice backed 40%.

Both Parliament and the Council must agree on an identical figure, so couldn’t the Commission slap a bigger target on the table?

Not so, said Cañete, the package was huge and ambitious. And it would be very, very hard for member states to hit the targets.

The Commission had carefully modelled the costs and benefits and found the best balance, Sefcovic said.

Energy efficiency brings jobs, boosts the economy and improves air quality, which saves lives.

According to Friends of the Earth Europe research drawn from  Commission analysis, 30% would save 31,250 more lives than 27%. But 40% would save just under 200,000.

We asked how many jobs and lives the executive was willing to sacrifice to reach a deal with the Council. See the response here at 05:30.

The Winter Package was released with a swagger and there are good things in it. But, faced with the prospect of cold, unresponsive member states, it could suffer some embarrassing performance issues.


It has been about ten minutes since the last scandal about Commissioners and their alleged conflicts of interest. Fortunately MLex’s Lewis Crofts can reveal Neelie Kroes broke her promise to not engage in any business activity after her term as the bloc’s antitrust boss.

European Council President Donald Tusk disappointed a group of Brexiteer MPs who had written to him asking for a quick fix to the uncertainty about residence rights for EU citizens in the UK and vice versa.

Tusk admitted he shared the MPs’ concerns but dismissed them as being “nothing to do with reality”. The Council would be better off spray-painting “no negotiation without notification” on the side of its fancy new building.

Those negotiations moved a step forward as Commission Brexit point-man Michel Barnier was asked by his boss, Jean-Claude Juncker, to start briefing the Commissioners.

The UK might be on its way out of the EU but there are plenty of countries lining up to join the club. The Western Balkans have come up with a new strategy to speed up accession, something Hungary wholeheartedly supports.

The region has cited its contribution to security and defence as reasons why they should be welcomed in as soon as possible. European defence and the spectre of the EU army continue to gather momentum and new defence research projects have been unveiled.

Gianni Pittella confirmed what EURACTIV told you yesterday, that the S&D group leader will seek to replace his party colleague, outgoing European Parliament President Martin Schulz. The Parliament is brokering an underwhelming deal to lease 19th century Belgian artist Antoine Wiertz’s former residence for a meagre €1.

The Commission wants car companies to build models with more internet-connected functions to save fuel and cause less accidents. But that will add around €1.25 billion to vehicle costs annually by 2030.

The EURACTIV newsroom was also delighted to learn that Belgian beer has been added to Unesco’s cultural heritage list. About time, too.


Ever wondered who the real Brexit movers and shakers are? EURACTIV will unveil a ranking of the top 50 influencers  in London later tonight. Keep an eye on Twitter under #Brexit50 and on for more on this…

Views are the author’s and not our sponsor’s.

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