MEPs give cautious welcome to energy union

Sofia Kalogeraki outlines the parliament and stakeholder reaction to the commission's energy union package.

By Sofia Kalogeraki

11 Mar 2015

On 25 February, the European commission presented its energy union package, outlining how it intends to achieve Europe's transition to a low carbon economy, where energy supply is secure, affordable and sustainable.

"Today, we launch the most ambitious European energy project since the coal and steel community. A project that will integrate our 28 European energy markets into one energy union, make Europe less energy dependent and give the predictability that investors so badly need to create jobs and growth", said commission vice-president Maroš Šefčovič, addressing MEPs immediately after the release of the package.

However, what Sefčovič described as the biggest integration project of its time, MEP Claude Turmes, the Greens/ EFA energy spokesperson, called an "inauspicious start". 

"[Energy union is] the most ambitious European energy project since the coal and steel community" - Maroš Šefčovič

The Greens/EFA group were the most sceptical of the energy union proposals, calling the increased focus on gas regrettable and urging an emphasis on more "home-grown secure and safe renewable energies".

The EPP, S&D and ALDE groups were more positive to the energy strategy, welcoming its enhanced focus on security and climate. 

The EPP found the proposals to be in line with the group's priority to assure "cheaper energy for citizens and enterprises". 

The S&D was pleased with the inclusion of a decarbonisation target but reiterated its call for binding targets to achieve the goals set by the strategy. 

ALDE saw the strategy as a chance to reduce Europe's dependency on Russia and added that the true challenge ahead would be to overcome the current fragmentation of EU energy policy into 28 different systems.

GUE/NGL on the other hand disapproved of the proposals to involve the commission in energy agreements, unless it was requested by the member states concerned. 

Finally, the EFDD group did not publish a statement, likely due to divergent views over climate action between its Italian members and the UK's climate sceptic representatives.

"The European parliament will now look at the commission proposals, scrutinise them, improve them where needed and turn them into legislation," stressed parliament president Martin Schulz. Sefčovič, meanwhile, has pledged to come back to the European parliament with the first 'state of the energy union' report before the end of this year.

Business leaders and campaigners' reaction

Gas and electricity: The EU electricity and gas industry applauded the opportunity offered by the energy union proposals for member states to establish a predictable regulatory environment for energy investors and bring price convergence. They also welcomed the approach taken by the strategy on completing missing infrastructure links and removing distortions and obstacles to the completion of the internal energy market.

Renewables: Although some regretted that the energy union falls short in highlighting how renewables can help complete the internal energy market, the majority of renewable energy associations were satisfied with the commitment to making the EU a world leader in renewable energy.

NGOs: The reaction from globally active NGOs echoed the remarks made by the Greens/EFA group, in that they regretted the strategy’s focus on gas. They also criticised the lack of division of roles and responsibilities for how to achieve the 2030 climate and energy targets set by the European council.

Industry: Associations from the industrial sector said that they expected concrete actions to bring down high energy prices that undermine the competitiveness of the EU industrial sector.

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