Günter Oettinger, the EU's energy commissioner, yesterday (7 September) unveiled proposals aimed at strengthening the EU's voice on energy matters vis-à-vis foreign countries such as Russia. But the proposal appears to face an uphill battle.
The European Commission adopted a Communication on security of energy supply and international cooperation yesterday (7 September), setting out for the first time a comprehensive strategy for the EU's external relations in energy.
It remains unclear if the policy proposals, which are non-binding, will ever become law, but Oettinger said he hoped EU countries would back it.
"The Commission proposes today a coherent approach in the energy relations with third countries. This need to improve internal coordination so that the EU and its member states act together and speak with one voice," Oettinger said.
The energy commissioner said he was counting on the Polish EU Presidency, a strong supporter of a coordinated European energy policy vis-à-vis Russia, to push forward the proposal.
The strategy lists 43 concrete actions, among which:
- EU countries would share between themselves information about international agreements with third countries in the field of energy. This includes agreements which are still under negotiation. On a case-by-case basis, the Commission may provide an opinion on the conformity of these agreements with EU law and with the EU's security of supply objectives.
- Energy agreements with third countries could also be negotiated at EU level where necessary to achieve the EU's core objectives. This is the case in an agreement being negotiated with Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan on a Trans-Caspian gas pipeline, where a specific mandate from the Council has been requested.
- The EU will propose a new partnership on renewable energy projects with Southern Mediterranean countries.
- The EU will call for international legally-binding nuclear safety standards in multilateral discussions, including under the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and will aim to extend nuclear safety assessments to the EU's neighbouring countries.
- EU development policy will include a greater emphasis on improving access to sustainable energy for less-developed and developing countries.