State of the Union: Five key takeaways from Ursula Von der Leyen
17 September 2020
Key points from von der Leyen's state of the union speech [caption id="attachment_14822" align="alignnone" width="640"]...
In a bid to advocate its proposal for the European Energy Community as a means of achieving a common EU energy policy, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and European think-tank Notre Europe brought together prominent EU decision makers, stakeholders and civil society representatives at a major conference.
"We are dismayed by the slow progress on developing the internal gas and electricity market. The time has come to put forward a daring proposal for the European Single Energy Market and the creation of a European Energy Community", said Staffan Nilsson, President of the European Economic and Social Committee. This idea was initially mooted by Jacques Delors, former President of the European Commission and founding President of a Paris-based European think-tank, Notre Europe, co-organiser of the conference. In a recent opinion, the EESC endorsed the concept and expanded on it.
The EESC calls for a joint approach to energy production, transmission and consumption. "It is a matter of necessity. Doing it alone is no longer an option, as this pushes energy prices up, jeopardises supply security and does nothing to get us closer to the low-carbon society we are aiming to achieve", added Mr Buffetaut, President of the EESC's Section for Transport, Energy, Infrastructure and the Information Society.
"The EU, the member states and all involved would let citizens down if they did not tackle these challenges in a spirit of solidarity and responsibility", said Anna-Maria Darmanin, Vice-President of the European Economic and Social Committee, adding that this should ideally be done within a European energy community. In this context, Martin Schulz, EP President, emphasised that this project would smooth our way towards low-carbon society by helping to create new jobs and more growth.
Günther Oettinger, European Commissioner for energ, said there would be greater emphasis on common infrastructure projects in the coming years. "This move would help to bind together Europe's hitherto separate 'energy islands'", added Jerzy Buzek, MEP, former President of the European Parliament.
Mr Oettinger struck a cautious note, however, pointing out that some of the EESC's proposals might not be feasible under the current treaty. "Although the Lisbon Treaty has extended the EU's powers in the energy field, some of the key decisions such as the energy mix remain in national hands", he said.
The EESC backed Mr Delors' idea of creating "a European gas purchasing group" to strengthen the bargaining power of Member States and companies. It suggested establishing a common supply structure for gas and other fuels, which would ensure consistency in negotiations and help to reduce prices. Martin Schulz highlighted that integration within the EU should help to secure Europe's external energy supplies. "Common purchasing power could go a long way towards preventing internal tensions between Member States", commented Jerzy Buzek.
In a written message to the conference, Jacques Delors highlighted the European Energy Community's potential for boosting the legitimacy of the European integration process in the eyes of the public. "By re-launching European integration in a concrete policy area and meeting citizens' need and expectations, the European Energy Community is a political project that could mobilise people".
In his statement, Mr Delors also supported the EESC's idea of setting up a European civil society forum tasked with monitoring energy issues such as infrastructure development, market conditions or consumers' rights. By constituting a channel of dialogue with decision-makers, the forum would ensure civil society's involvement in development of the EU's energy policy.
Following the conference, a joint declaration to be signed by Staffan Nilsson and Jacques Delors will call for rapid and operational steps towards the integration of EU energy policy. The conference was jointly organised by the European Economic and Social Committee and Notre Europe, a Paris-based European think-tank founded by Jacques Delors.
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