The European Union’s quest for a common energy foreign policy

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

The latest issue of the German journal Foreign Policy in Dialogue focuses on Europe’s efforts to form a common energy foreign policy from the perspectives of Germany, Poland, France and Lithuania.

Marco Overhaus writes that energy policy has risen to the top of the European agenda due to the increase in energy prices, questions over Russia’s reliability as a secure energy provider – especially after the enlargement of the Union in 2004 – and high-profile efforts by the EU to liberalise the internal energy market. 

Although economic efficiency and ecological sustainability have been prominent for some time, the author writes that the external dimension has only recently gained importance. The Commission’s common energy strategy seeks to integrate all three dimensions and to enable the Union to be act more coherently with its neighbours on energy issues. 

Frank Umbauch looks more closely at the rationale for a European Energy Foreign Policy due to economic and political crises in the oil- producing countries outside Europe and the threat posed by “energy nationalism”. The situations in Germany, France, Poland and Lithuania are then analysed in turn by a series of different authors.

Common to all the authors is a questioning of the assumption that energy policy should be soley an economic domain, clearly separated from more traditional foreign and security issues. In this regard, Russia’s importance is emphasised. The ‘Yukos Affair’ was widely seen in Western Europe as a clear sign of the Russian government’s efforts to regain control over natural resources and to use them as a political instrument in external relations, as eptomised by the Ukrainian gas conflict.  Already today, the EU has begun to integrate energy concerns into its dialogues with important supplier and transit countries. 

Secondly, they question the assumption that energy policy is the domain of European nation states alone and not that of the European Union, arguing that “dealing effectively with real and rising dependencies requires more than any single state can deliver”.

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