EU leaders take small steps on European energy policy

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The EU summit backs more cooperation on energy policy, but shies away from hot issues of energy market de-regulation and goals for renewable energy.

The focus of the annual Spring Summit of EU leaders is on energy this year. In the face of the issue of growing energy dependency and rising oil-prices, energy has now been added to the Lisbon agenda, traditionally discussed at the Spring summit. 

EU leaders meeting in Brussels on 23-24 March are set to back a new Energy Policy for Europe (EPE), but leaders like Germany's Angela Merkel are not ready to hand over any competences to the EU, and the summit will thus limit itself to more general principles and already agreed goals of securing energy supply and competitiveness.  

Ideas on the creation of a European energy regulator will not get backing from all member states. 

France's President Chirac, whose country is in a row with Italy over the blocking of Enel's takeover bid of the French energy utility Suez, said: "The construction of a Europe of energy (sic) cannot be confined to the liberalisation of markets. We must do everything to encourage the development of 'European champions', based on solid industrial ambition and not on a purely financial approach."

The President also managed to steal the show when he walked out during the speech of fellow country-man, Ernest-Antoine Seillière, head of the UNICE employers organisation, who chose to make his plea for economic reform in English. 

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