EU Energy Policy: Practice, not theory

The Nord Stream 2 pipeline is not a bad thing in theory, but for a number of reasons it risks becoming one, believes Karen Melchior.
Press Association

By Karen Melchior

Karen Melchior (DK, RE) is a member of the Parliament's JURI and FEMM Committees

18 Aug 2021

The first thing to note is that the European Union lacks a geostrategic energy policy. This is because we cannot distinguish our energy policy from our foreign policy. This lack of action speaks louder than words, and it indicates that the European Union is not a serious foreign policy actor. In so doing, we are not only letting our partners down, but also those EU Member States who continue to depend on Russian energy.

The importance of the Central and South-eastern Europe energy connectivity and the Energy Community could be significant, but neither the Commission nor the Council have been able to deliver tangible results.

“The European Commission should start to demonstrate global leadership and establish the energy community that we have been talking about for nearly two decades”

For 15 years, we have been trying to create an integrated energy market with our neighbours, to allow cross-border trading between them and with the EU in order to diminish their dependency on Russian oil and gas. If the EU wants to have genuine geostrategic clout and a serious neighbourhood policy, then we need to be serious about our energy policy.

The European Commission opposes the Nord Stream 2 project but is powerless to stop it, unless there is a clear violation of EU law. Now, the Commission and Kadri Simson are left sidelined while the US and Germany seem to be setting energy policy for the entire EU.

This is not how it should be; the EU’s energy policy is a matter for itself and for its Member States. So, for the agreement to come to fruition, Merkel’s successor and Biden need to persuade EU countries to get on board. Sadly, this looks challenging, unless Germany and Commission President Ursula von de Leyen adds an ambitious strategic energy policy for all of Europe to the proposed climate and energy packages.

We also need further progress for the US and Germany deal to be implemented, while Russia needs to modernise and liberalise its energy sector. According to Politico EU, Russia further needs divest itself of the €9.5 bn pipeline, and also pay Ukraine some additional €20 bn through to 2034 in order to make up for the loss of gas transit fees.

“The first thing to note is that the European Union lacks a geostrategic energy policy. This is because we cannot distinguish our energy policy from our foreign policy”

So how do Germany and the US foresee this progressing without a joined-up transatlantic approach to, and partnership with, Russia? At the moment - looking at the deal from a foreign policy point of view - the US-German agreement over Nord Stream 2 seems like a governmental seal of approval that rewards the continual provocations and escalation of These include the military build-up at Ukraine’s borders this spring to, most recently, the filing a complaint against Ukraine with the European Court of Human Rights.

Through its energy policy, Russia is continuing to apply pressure on our neighbours and even on EU Member States. As long as the European Union lacks its own energy policy, it is leaving the European nations to fend for themselves.

We must start learning from the mistakes of the past. We should establish proper long-term relations with Russia - based on European values - rather than business deals of individual companies and countries.

The European Commission should start to demonstrate global leadership and establish the energy community that we have been talking about for nearly two decades. If we want to succeed this time, we must show that we can be a credible long-term partner for our neighbours.

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