The Union is based on cohesion, improved competitiveness, sustainability and solidarity between Member States and this is reflected very well in the Union acquis on energy policy. While some instruments clearly contribute to make our energy markets competitive (such as the Electricity and Gas Directives) and innovative (Energy Efficiency legislation), others like the Renewable Energy Directive set the necessary goals to have a sustainable future.
But only a few are the real life expression of solidarity and improved cohesion between Member States such as the Security of Gas Supply Regulation and the TEN-E that puts common interest – expressed through enhanced security of supply and interconnection capacity – above immediate markets’ interests.
On the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, Jacques Delors and Jerzy Buzek (at the time President of the EP) signed a joint declaration “Towards a new European Energy Community” where it stated that, “The EU must have the ability to pool its supply capacities and to engage in coordinated energy purchasing, should the need arise. In the long term, if we are faced with a major energy crisis, common strategic reserves must be available, and managed throughout the continent in a spirit of solidarity”.
12 years have passed since that document was signed and this political ambition remains as valid as ever if not more and, as it is usually the case, the Union steps up its game when facing critical challenges.
At the same time, recent events showed us more than ever that the EU cannot afford to rely on single suppliers or supply routes and that solidarity in times of crisis is not an ethereal concept, instead it needs to be defined and concrete measures be in place before disaster strikes. The effects of disruptions in the Union were only a side effect of the Ukraine-Russia commercial disputes (in 2006, 2008, 2009…) and we did not appropriately assess potential ulterior motives or geopolitical consequences of our commercial decisions. We assumed everyone played by our rules.
What was unthinkable has happened. Russia’s waging an unwarranted war on Ukraine, causing a bloodshed and shelling its towns and villages. At the time of writing this article, the Russian aggression in Ukraine has been going on for over four months.
Inflation is reaching historical proportions, largely driven by high energy and food prices, over 8 Member States have totally or significantly stopped receiving Russian gas, the Union has decided to sanction coal and oil imports from Russia, millions of Ukrainians have been welcomed in the Union while the conflict goes on, and, in an unprecedented move, Ukraine and Moldova have been granted candidate country status.
These are challenging times.
Measures are being taken to ensure our Gas storage is full by November 1st, to avoid that our critical storage infrastructure is in the hands of those wanted to destabilise us, to allow for the joint purchase of gas to take advantage of being a market of 450 million people, to strengthen solidarity measures between Member States, to speed up our achievement of the Green Deal objectives, to increase the share of renewable and indigenous low carbon energy sources in the Union, to put solar panels in all our rooftops, to invest in the necessary interconnections between Member States to ensure that gas will flow wherever it is needed within the Union, to diversify suppliers, to palliate the effects of rising energy prices and to set the basis for a new energy diplomacy.
Throughout the years, the European Parliament has stood unequivocally in support of an EU energy policy based on the principles of competitiveness, sustainability and security of supply. Energy independence, through the triple diversification of sources, suppliers and routes of supply has always seemed like a far reaching goal as Member States saw energy policy a matter of national security therefore measures were usually taken at national level.
Member States were correct in the assessment that energy policy is a matter of national security. They were, in my opinion, wrong in their approach about how to solve the problem. We cannot pretend that we are fully sovereign in our energy decisions when our markets are interconnected and decisions or emergencies in on Member State directly affect the rest of the Union. The recent events have made it clear how we can benefit by acting together, with a single voice. This objective is now a political priority and the necessary processes to achieve it have been set in motion.