European Law Monitor

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Joint parliamentary meeting debates energy: security, diversity, efficiency


National and European parliamentarians debated all aspects of moves towards a European energy policy on Monday, at one of three working groups of the joint parliamentary meeting on the Future of Europe. Earlier, nearly 200 members of the European Parliament and EU national parliaments took part in an opening session to begin assessing progress made after 18 months of the period of reflection.

Jouko Skinnari (Finland Parliament), rapporteur of the working group, began the meeting by saying "Europeans needs to speak with one voice when talking about energy". The external and internal dimensions of energy policy, he added, had to work coherently, ensuring security of supply and reasonable prices. Decisions, he said, "cannot be taken at the national level any longer". "EU energy policy is the only possible way out of our problems in Europe", said Jorge Seguro (Portugese Parliament), co-chair of the working group with MEP Jules Maaten (ALDE, NL).
 
The results of EU work on energy security "are not satisfactory", said Edmund Wittbrodt (Polish senate). What Europe needs to determine, he argued, "is why we are not speaking with a single voice". Part of the reason, he believed, was that "the interests of European society do not correlate with the interests of individual Member States".
 

Diversification of energy supply

 
Several speakers underlined a pressing need to diversity energy supply routes. Speaking of "increasingly authoritarian tendencies" in Russia, with, he said, Gazprom and Rosneft acting as agents of Russian foreign policy, Charles Tannock (EPP-ED, UK) stressed the need for a European "common external energy security policy". To that effect, he said, Europe should anchor countries like oil-rich Kazakhstan into its energy policy framework. Rebecca Harms (Greens/EFA, DE) was strongly critical of this, view saying Kazakhstan was "not necessarily a country you could rely on". "We don't want to push Russia in the direction of India and China", said József Ékes (Hungarian parliament).
 

Energy efficiency, energy savings and renewable energy

 
At the same time, according to Jürgen Trittin (German Bundestag), Europe has a "duty" to reduce energy demand: "not only diversification, but reduction".  Most speakers agreed: Luise Polonia (Portuguese parliament) asked for energy use reduction goals.  Anne Grete Holmsgaard (Danish Parliament) said, "Europe needs to be far more ambitious", stressing Denmark's unchanged energy consumption level over 30 years which had seen economic growth of 60%. According to Kurt Bodewig, (German Bundestag), energy consumption and energy efficiency will be one of the main points on the energy agenda of the forthcoming German Presidency. According to Sotiros Hatzigakis (Greek Parliament), Europe should do more to explore and exploit renewable energy sources.
 

Nuclear power

 
There was no consensus on the question of nuclear power and its role in the future EU energy policy. Mr Tannock said he "cannot see how we can meet Kyoto targets without nuclear being part of the mix," but Ms Harms argued that "nuclear power cannot be the answer to European energy problems ". According to Zita Plestinska (EPP-ED, SK), nuclear power plays an important role in the Slovakia but it was "for each country to chose its energy mix".
 

Interconnection and energy prices

 
Janez Sušnik (Slovenian Parliament) said "the EU does not have sufficient scenarios" for intra-European energy networks and for links with the outside world. It needed, he said, "an integrated energy grid". Several speakers from the Baltic countries, including Liina Tönisson (Estonian Parliament), underlined that the Baltic States needed to be better connected with the EU. Esko Seppänen (GUE/NGL, FI) warned that citizens of several Nordic Member States, who currently pay lower energy prices than the average European citizen, could suffer from price liberalisation.
 

European Citizens needs to be involved

 
Noting the correlation between energy and economic, industrial, foreign and monetary policies, Pervenche Berès (PES, FR) said "This is a tangible topic, which we can sell to citizens". Jean Eigeman, (Eerste Kamer, Netherlands) said that we "need to win over citizens" who should "become the subject of the European Energy policy and only not be an object". According to Eluned Morgan (PES, UK) "we have to make sure that we have a clear strategy for consumers". The EU could provide only the framework, but it would be up to the Member States to produce the necessary information and to tackle the problem of energy poverty, she continued.
 

Climate change

 
Several speakers stressed the links with climate policy. Mr Skinnari said in his concluding remarks that "the Kyoto Protocol has to embrace countries where no emission trading system of the EU type is undertaken". Even if many people in the EU take the view that the system does not work well, it was "a great start and must be strengthened and enhanced" said Peter Luff (House of Commons, UK). According to Ms Morgan we "have to get back to the polluter pays principle".
 
Mr Skinnari concluded the meeting by saying that "The future of the European Energy Policy is now" and that therefore "we need to develop solutions quickly", since it takes time to implement decisions - at the moment decisions from 10 years ago are being implemented.
 

Opening of the interparliamentary meeting on the Future of Europe

 
Earlier on Monday, MEPs and national MPs gathered for a brief opening session of the full interparliamentary meeting. The meeting - which follows on from a similar gathering in May - aims to assess progress made during the 'period of reflection' on the future of Europe since the 'no' votes in referendums on the proposed EU constitution in France and the Netherlands. In his opening remarks, EP President Josep Borrell said "so far the period of reflection has produced more questions than answers".
 
The EP President, who co-chaired the opening session with the Speaker of the Finnish Parliament Paavo Lipponen, recalled that the forthcoming German Presidency will have to propose a way out of the stalemate: "There is talk of convening an Intergovernmental Conference next summer.” But for Josep Borrell, an IGC was not the best method to discuss and approve reforms. He wanted both the European and national parliaments to be involved in the talks on the future institutional set-up of the EU.
 
Mr Lipponen said "the Finnish Parliament, the Eduskunta, will approve the Constitutional Treaty tomorrow by great majority. We are all aware that the treaty may not enter into force in its current form, but the approval...will be a political act, confirming our determination to defend the essential content of the treaty". Mr Borrell congratulated Mr Lipponen for the fact that Finland was about to become the sixteenth Member State to ratify the treaty and agreed with him that the constitution should be the basis of any new proposal.
 
The Eduskunta Speaker also said that the constitutional debate should not paralyse the EU's work: “We have a full mandate to deliver results on the basis of the present Treaties."
 
The three working groups will report back to Tuesday's plenary session, which will also look at the wider questions of Europe's institutional future.