From the European Energy Community to the Energy Union

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.


It is essential to mobilize all citizens around the energy transition in which the world is engaged and required to adopt common measures to keep the increase of temperature below 2°C. The release of the Energy Union package by the European Commission is the first major step in the European wide debate to give life and to create public support to this challenging project, write Jacques Delors, Sami Andoura and Jean-Arnold Vinois.

Jacques Delors is the founding president of the Jacques Delors Institute.  Sami Andoura is senior research fellow at the Jacques Delors Institute and professor and holder of the European energy policy Chair at the College of Europe. Jean-Arnold Vinois is adviser at the Jacques Delors Institute.

In order to assist the stakeholders involved in this complex task of energy transition, the Jacques Delors Institute issued an extensive report analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of the present European energy policy, proposing ten immediate actions to address the identified shortcomings and envisaging a much wider longer term project of Energy Union relying on ten building blocks. 

It is time to give energy its logical and necessary place in the European project, in line with what European citizens have been demanding for several years now.  It is time to stop conducting 28 national policies, leading to ruinous costs for the citizens. And it is time to build on the best possible combination of resources and infrastructures that are available in Europe. 

The internal market is the cornerstone of this optimization of resources but it has to be fully completed with the appropriate implementation of legal measures and of the physical infrastructures by all players without delay.  The Commission is expected to show its leadership by steering the cooperation between all the players to transform the rules in concrete actions, supported by the EU financial instruments when needed. But the Energy Union is more than the internal market.

The Energy Union is the catalyst for the necessary energy transition in Europe, and must be used to overcome the fragmented, short-termist and isolated approach that is dangerously looming over Europe. Rather than being developed with a silo mentality, the energy Union must be interconnected with all other relevant policies.

It is based on a new sustainable economic development model. The focus of the European energy system must shift from the supply side to the demand side, and from an unsustainable production model to one aimed at reducing consumption. Relying on more decentralized generation, domestic resources and an effective demand management, the project must reflect the ongoing democratization of the energy market. 

Such a sustainable growth model requires a genuine industrial strategy driven by innovation, a strong education component as well as a social dialogue accompanying the important changes expected in skills and jobs requirements. The governance needs also to be revisited in ensuring a better involvement of the civil society in the ongoing energy transition, a higher political visibility and an enhanced public acceptance. It is relying on an efficient Energy and Climate Information Agency, providing common analysis, understanding and forward thinking views. 

The Energy Union leverages the strength of the biggest energy market, inside and outside the EU.   While promoting a pan-European Energy Union, comprising the neighbouring countries, the project relies on a real European Energy Diplomacy, in its relations with supplying and transiting third countries as well as with major energy consumer countries.  It uses the EU trade policy and its diplomatic services to promote and defend the common interests in advancing towards a low carbon economy based on smart resources, technologies and behaviours.  The Energy Union favours public-private partnerships for low carbon energy cooperation and development inside and outside the EU, particularly for those billions of world citizens having no access to electricity. 

With a clear and unequivocal message, the Energy Union reflects the common political willingness of its 28 Member States, its 500 millions citizens and of the European institutions to achieve the energy transition for the benefit of all and for the future generations. None of these actions requires institutional changes or modifications to existing treaties.

The debate launched with the initiative from the European Commission is a key test for the European Union. It must be followed by strong and constructive actions by all stakeholders. It is time to find new enthusiasm for an ideal that seems utopian but that can be achieved. We have no time to lose.

In 2010, we launched with Jerzy Buzek, then president of the European Parliament, the project of a European Energy Community based on the three founding pillars of the economic ensemble, namely: the competition that stimulates, the cooperation that strengthens and the solidarity that unites. By replacing the term “Community” by the term “Union”, we hope that the ambition and the nature of the project will remain.

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