If 2014 is indeed to be the 'new start for Europe', this commitment of the new European commission must deliver both concrete, tangible results for European citizens, and strengthen the raison d'être of European integration - the profound sense of our community and our values. Creating jobs, ensuring economic growth and competitiveness, reviving European industry as a key engine of growth, innovation, research and exports - these different elements of EU policy will bring prosperity to citizens only if we are able to provide secure, affordable and sustainable energy.
The overarching importance of a common EU energy policy is reflected in the institutional changes introduced with the setting up of the new commission. Therefore, we now have a commissioner responsible for energy and climate policy, Miguel Cañete. I am confident that his merged portfolio will ensure that our goal of a low-emissions economy is achieved in a sustainable way that allows energy to be the driver of European prosperity.
We also now have a vice-president of the commission responsible for the energy union, Maroš Šefčovič. By cooperating with and coordinating the work of more than 10 commissioners, the vice-president is in effect the institutional product of this overarching importance placed on energy policy. This is not only for the prosperity of our citizens, but for the wellbeing of the EU at large. Šefčovič will carry forward the proposals I put together with Jacques Delors in 2010 on the 60th anniversary of the Schuman declaration. We called for a true energy community for Europe founded on a common energy market, common energy-oriented research and a common voice for the EU in relations with our external suppliers.
"Once completed, the internal energy market will drive sustainable implementation of our climate goals and stimulate development and commercialisation of new energy technologies"
Just as the pooling of resources from the outset of European integration and the introduction of the common market decades later all helped Europe make the most efficient use of the available capital - natural, financial, human - so does the completion of the internal energy market offer the very same promise in terms of our energy policy today.
Such was the rationale behind the commitment taken on by all member states in early 2011, of creating the internal energy market by the end of 2014. It laid the path to secure and stable supplies, owing to interconnected networks, crisis response mechanisms, coordination of purchases, and a stronger position in negotiations with external suppliers. A truly interconnected market is the key to more affordable energy, not only for businesses, but also for our citizens, with better control over their energy consumption and choice of suppliers. Once completed, the internal energy market will drive sustainable implementation of our climate goals and stimulate development and commercialisation of new energy technologies.
We might miss the 2014 deadline for the completion of the internal energy market, but we simply cannot miss out on what the market can offer. Raising our energy efficiency, ensuring energy security, economic competitiveness, savings for every household and enterprise - fully implementing the internal energy market is no less than an excellent exit strategy from the economic crisis.
But an energy policy that helps the EU deliver in all those tangible aspects, a policy worthy of a true energy union, carries a much more profound promise and hope for the European Union. Our energy policy and the energy union can help tip the scales of European integration and determine the future direction of the EU as a whole. Just as our ‘four freedoms’, Schengen and the introduction of the euro have all delivered both concrete benefits to our citizens, as well as a more profound sense of our European community, so can the energy union. This will happen only as long as we truly understand that our energy policy must serve our fundamental value of solidarity. This value is enshrined in the Lisbon treaty as the guiding principle for EU energy policy, and it must clearly be the foundation of the energy union we are putting in place. Solidarity must equally guide our thinking, our discussions and our actions with regard to the internal energy market.
Nearly 65 years ago, the need for solidarity between the free states of western Europe gave birth to European integration. 25 years ago, solidarity among Europeans succeeded in changing our continent once again and gave new impetus to this integration. Today, we must again look to that value we all share – to solidarity – if we want to regain the prosperity and dynamism that solidarity brought Europe before. Energy policy, our energy union, founded on the value of solidarity can really be that ‘new start for Europe’ that we need.