EU closer to ‘gen­uine En­ergy Union’ as MEPs sup­port gas sup­ply sol­i­dar­ity

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

Euro­pean law­mak­ers ap­proved on Tues­day a new se­cu­rity of gas reg­u­la­tion, which in­cludes a sol­i­dar­ity prin­ci­ple in case of sup­ply dis­rup­tions and will make it more dif­fi­cult for other coun­tries to “black­mail” the EU’s mem­bers.

Mem­ber states that are hit by gas sup­ply crises will now be able to count on the aid of neigh­bour­ing coun­tries, af­ter MEPs adopted a re­port on the is­sue dur­ing Tues­day’s ple­nary ses­sion in Strasbourg.

Aimed at pre­vent­ing “black­mail” of EU coun­tries by ex­ter­nal gas sup­pli­ers, the new rules mean mem­ber states will be obliged to step in and help their af­flicted neigh­bours pro­vide gas to the most vul­ner­a­ble parts of so­ci­ety, the so­called “pro­tected con­sumers”. Cli­mate Com­mis­sioner Miguel Arias Canete, who was a guest at the early morn­ing de­bate, wel­comed the “am­bi­tious but bal­anced agree­ment, reached af­ter 14 months: a real record”.

The re­port’s au­thor, Pol­ish MEP and chair of the en­ergy com­mit­tee (ITRE) Jerzy Buzek (EPP), thanked Cañete for in­volv­ing the Mal­tese Pres­i­dency of the Coun­cil dur­ing the ne­go­ti­a­tion pe­riod, as it “man­aged to con­vince a num­ber of mem­ber states”.

It builds on com­mon rules on en­ergy deals with third coun­tries, which the Par­lia­ment also sup­ported back in March and which was the first piece of En­ergy Union leg­is­la­tion to be adopted by the Par­lia­ment.

En­ergy Union chief Maros Se­f­covic, re­act­ing to the ple­nary’s ap­proval, said: “We have de­liv­ered on the prom­ise to our cit­i­zens that they do not need to fear to be left in the cold in the fu­ture, while the in­dus­try is kept on hold.”

As well as in­tro­duc­ing a new spirit of sol­i­dar­ity, the leg­is­la­tion will also en­hance the re­gional as­pect of the En­ergy Union, as mem­ber states will now be banded into seven new re­gional blocs, spe­cially cre­ated for the pur­poses of en­ergy se­cu­rity, in or­der to bet­ter re­spond to crises.

Croa­t­ian MEP Da­vor Skr­lec (Greens/ EFA) wel­comed this fo­cus on re­gional co­op­er­a­tion and in­sisted that “Cañete has been given a very pow­er­ful tool to use”.

Buzek pointed out that it is an es­sen­tial part of the new reg­u­la­tion be­cause “90% of Euro­pean gas crosses at least one bor­der”. He added that “a sin­gle coun­try can dis­rupt sup­plies but a sin­gle coun­try cer­tainly can­not over­come or pre­vent such dis­rup­tions alone”.

How­ever, not all MEPs were as en­thu­si­as­tic about the new mea­sures. Pol­ish law­maker Krzysztof Het­man (EPP) raised the is­sue of Nord Stream 2, a con­tro­ver­sial gas pipe­line project that would link Rus­sia to Ger­many, brand­ing “threat to en­ergy se­cu­rity”.

Ni­cola Ca­puto (S&D group) also in­sisted that EU pol­icy should pro­mote re­new­able en­er­gies, not fos­sil fu­els, while UKIP MEP Bill Etheridge (EFDD) said there should be more re­search done into nu­clear and frack­ing tech­nolo­gies, which he called “the fu­els of the fu­ture”.

Even though the leg­is­la­tion is pri­mar­ily aimed at lim­it­ing the power third coun­tries, par­tic­u­larly Rus­sia, can ex­ert over the EU, a num­ber of MEPs raised is­sues that are al­most en­tirely of the bloc’s own mak­ing.

Ir­ish law­maker and ITRE mem­ber Seán Kelly high­lighted how Ire­land is cur­rently de­pen­dent on the United King­dom for 90% of its gas and how the is­land’s only en­ergy link to the EU will dis­ap­pear in March 2019.

To counter this sit­u­a­tion, he urged the EU to con­tinue and in­crease fund­ing to Projects of Com­mon In­ter­est such as the Shannon LNG fa­cil­ity and the Celtic In­ter­con­nec­tor, an un­der­sea ca­ble that will link Ire­land to north­west France.

This is not the first time the Union has tried to shield it­self from en­ergy crises. Af­ter spats be­tween Rus­sia and Ukraine in 2006 and 2009 saw gas sup­plies cut off to many parts of Europe, the EU adopted the first se­cu­rity of gas reg­u­la­tion in 2010. That piece of leg­is­la­tion obliged mem­ber states to work closely to­gether in or­der to best pre­pare for sup­ply dis­rup­tions, as well as hav­ing in place in­fra­struc­ture ca­pa­ble of pro­vid­ing re­verse flows of gas.

Var­i­ous Com­mis­sion stress tests and checks have shown that parts of the bloc still re­main vul­ner­a­ble and the agree­ment reached on Tues­day was a di­rect re­sponse to that threat. The adopted text will now be pub­lished in the Of­fi­cial Jour­nal of the EU and will en­ter into force 20 days af­ter pub­li­ca­tion.

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