France unveils proposals for EU energy policy

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France is to present wide-ranging proposals on energy at a meeting of EU finance ministers on 24 January. Suggestions include recognising nuclear power’s contribution to security of supply and CO2 emissions cuts.

Finance ministers will discuss, on 24 January, a memorandum on EU energy policy presented by French Finance Minister Thierry Breton. The paper makes wide-ranging proposals to secure European supplies after the Russia-Ukraine gas row highlighted Europe’s dependency on imports. 

The paper proposes recognising the contribution of nuclear power to EU security of supply and “contribution to the fight against global warming” as a technology that does not release CO2. It suggests increasing R&D efforts for “future nuclear energy” and invites other countries to join research projects on the fourth generation nuclear reactor.

However, it underlines that possible action on nuclear energy should be taken in full respect of the ‘subsidiarity principle’ whereby the EU intervenes only when an issue cannot be adequately tackled by the member states acting on their own. 

Proposals in the paper include:

  • Oil: increasing transparency in oil markets by regularly publishing European oil stock levels; increasing refining capacity; supporting green chemistry in the petrochemical sector (see EURACTIV LinksDossier)
  • Gas: increasing gas storage capacities and developing interconnections
  • International relations: raising the EU’s profile in relations with other countries and regions, including on climate and energy issues
  • Renewable energies: to consider a directive on thermal power; to allocate part of EU cohesion funds in favour of renewables; to speed up the use of alternative fuels for transport (biofuels, GTL, natural gas)
  • Research: stepping up R&D efforts in energy by “asserting the priority character of energy” in the seventh community research programme (FP7). This includes carbon capture and storage as well as other clean coal technologies

On the demand side, France proposes stepping up energy efficiency measures in households, transport, industry and agriculture (see related EURACTIV LinksDossier).

The French memorandum was welcomed in Brussels as "one of many contributions" that are expected in the coming months, according to Commission energy spokesperson, Mr. Tarradellas i Espuny. He indicated that the Commission will issue a Green Paper on EU energy policy in March that will form the basis for discussion at the spring summit on 23-24 March. This, he said, will be "by far the most important" policy paper on energy to come out of Brussels this year.

Speaking on 4 January after Russia and Ukraine reached an agreement on gas prices, EU Energy Commissioner Piebalgs said: "It is clear that Europe needs a clearer and more collective and cohesive policy on security of energy supply. To date, the issue of security of energy supply is only really considered at national member state level; but in reality we need a much greater European-wide approach on this issue."

The Russia-Ukraine gas dispute highlighted the EU's dependency on foreign imports for its basic energy needs. The row spurred a debate in Europe on how to diversify supplies and underlined the need for greater EU involvement in energy policy (EURACTIV, 5 Jan. 2006).

  • 8 March 2006: Commission green paper to launch debate on a possible common EU energy policy
  • 23-24 March 2006: spring summit to discuss EU energy policy options
  • Summer 2006: Commission expected to launch an action plan on energy efficiency (depending on the outcome of the general energy debate with member states)

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