Please note that this does not constitute a formal record of the proceedings of the meeting. It is dependent on interpretation and acts as an unofficial summary of the debate.
On October 21, the European Parliament held a plenary discussion on the issues on the agenda of the upcoming European Council (23-24 October). The discussion mostly focused on the 2030 energy and climate framework and the current economic situation. External security challenges and the threat posed by the Ebola virus were also touched upon.
Benedetto Della Vedova opened the meeting by briefing the members on the agenda of the upcoming summit on behalf of the Italian Presidency of the Council. He highlighted that this week’s European Council will be the last such event both for European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and Commission President Barroso. Speaking about the EU climate and energy policy up to 2030, Della Vedova stressed the importance of adopting a consistent framework that ensures accessible prices as well as a stable supply, while it allows for a competitive industry and secures the environment. He pointed out the heterogeneous views of Member States that vary based on their respective industrial capacities, energy accessibility, energy demand and the different environmental approaches. In order for the EU to become a global leader in climate policy, six main chapters need to be addressed: an effective emission trading scheme, renewable energy sources, a completed internal market for energy, energy security and proper governance. On behalf of the Presidency, the speaker expressed full commitment to reaching an agreement at this week’s summit, which would be essential for sticking to the schedule of getting a global deal next year in Paris.
Other topics discussed at the European Council meeting will include the fragile economic situation in Europe and the need to relaunch growth, guarantee jobs and regain competitiveness. The heads of state and government will also discuss the challenges posed by the Ebola virus; take stock of the internal and external response needed and come up with a strategy to control the crisis.
Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen confirmed in his speech that the summit will be seeking agreement on the 2030 climate and energy framework, while debates on the economy, external threats and Ebola will also be on the agenda. Regarding the economy, Katainen reminded that no tangible decision will be taken this week. He noted that throughout the crisis, European response was built on the pillars of fiscal consolidation, structural reform and targeted investment. He claimed those pillars to be valid still today and argued that even though recovery is fragile and uneven, efforts started paying off. In this regard, the Commissioner assessed the reformed economic governance to be crucial and pointed to the implementation of the new financial regulation and supervision framework as something that will be essential for restoring confidence.
He also claimed that Europe needed to show credibility in reforming its economy and society towards a low-carbon future. He expressed optimism for a decisive deal to be within reach on the climate framework. Katainen claimed the agreement to be of strategic importance in order to make the EU a key global contributor. In his view, the proposal shows a right mix of ambition and realism and combines environmental and industry goals well. He also emphasised that energy security needs to be part of the framework. The European ambition is far from being matched by the two main global polluters – the USA and China – and the EU felt let-down when a comprehensive global deal didn’t happen. However, developments show that Europe remains on the right side of the argument, and agreeing on the framework could set the tone for the Paris negotiations. The proposals are clear, balanced and ambitious; the ball is now in the court of the Council.
In terms of the external situation, the Ukraine-Russia conflict will particularly be in the focus. The Commissioner stressed that Europe needs to stay active to defend its values and interest, and should continue contributing to a political solution while ensuring that unlawful behaviour carries consequences. The crisis touches upon the very heart of the European idea: freedom, democracy and the rule of law. He underlined that a political and peaceful solution has always been the Commission’s first priority, but any solution needs to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty, integrity and independence. It is in that spirit that the EU mediates in bilateral talks, and considers the Minsk agreement to be the basis for a deal. Any other outcome would not only risk the independence of Ukraine, but also the credibility, security and unity of Europe. Katainen also emphasised that the EU never sought exclusivity in its relations, on the contrary, invested a lot in a strategic partnership with Russia.
The Commission is also greatly concerned by the humanitarian situation in Iraq and Syria. Aid needs to be part of a wider effort comprising measures in the political/diplomatic area, counter-terrorism and cutting funding of terrorism, humanitarian and communication fields. Katainen also argued that the delivery of aid should not be linked to military objectives. Finally, the European Council will be addressing yet another crisis: the Ebola virus. The Commission and the Member States have provided financial assistance worth more than 600 million euros, while 12 Member States also provide equipment through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. The Commission discussed the issue at this week’s College and will feed into the discussions at the European Council.
Francoise Grossetete (EPP, FR) started the first round of contributions from MEPs. She spoke about the importance of ensuring energy security and the need for interconnections, but argued that the fight against climate change cannot leave corpses of dead companies and unemployed workers behind. She stated that the energy market is still fragmented, national policies are not harmonised enough, and energy prices are too high which deteriorates competitiveness. Companies need to be offered a clear framework, and energy infrastructure needs to be improved in order to establish an energy union. Grossetete also spoke in favour of preventing carbon leakage and focusing more on carbon capture and storage, as well as electricity storage. She claimed that research and development efforts need to be supported. In her view, unilateral actions bring no solution; therefore the EU cannot be overly naive in negotiations. In order to reach real change, a global agreement is needed next year.
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