16th Jul 2019

EU moots greater role in deals with oil-rich countries

The European Commission on Wednesday suggested it should negotiate 'strategic' energy contracts with other countries on behalf of the whole EU and have a greater say when countries strike bilateral deals with Russia.

"If we speak on one voice, we get a completely different weight, so that the divide-and-rule principle will no longer be successful for other countries," EU energy commissioner Guenther Oettinger said during a press briefing outlining the proposal.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • The EU imports 80 percent of its oil (Photo: Paul Lowry)

Pending approval by member states and the European Parliament, the external energy policy draft would require all EU member states to provide information on existing and negotiating agreements in all areas, not only oil and gas.

This would apply to private companies as well, so long as they are part of an inter-governmental agreement - for instance BP bidding for a gas exploitation in Russia.

The commission would have an "observer-adviser status in the negotiation process" and respect confidentiality rules towards other member states if needed, he explained.

Currently, EU states have to notify the commission only after they concluded gas supply agreements with other countries, including Russia which is the biggest exporter to the EU.

Presenting it as advantageous for Moscow as well, since it would avoid painful court cases for breaches of EU competition law, Oettinger noted that Poland had already approached his services for advice and legal expertise during negotiations on the Yamal gas pipeline from Russia.

"This doesn't mean the European Commission will be at the negotiation table in all negotiations or reviewing all existing agreements - that would be overly bureaucratic. But when it's about the security of supply and could jeopardise open competition in the internal market - there we want to be active, offer legal opinion early in the proceedings," he said.

The proposal would also allow the EU to strike deals for instance with Tunisia, Egypt or Libya not only to secure oil supplies, but also to provide solar energy.


The democratic credentials of the supplier countries will not be a factor when the EU strikes deals.

"I don't think we can require higher ethical rules than we can actually expect. If we say we're going to treat only with countries which are full democracies, we may as well just park our car in the garage," Oettinger quipped.

But he insisted that "energy can help bring about structural change, more democracy, market economy and human rights." Current events, however, have proven the contrary. In oil-rich Libya, a 42-year-long dictatorship based on revenues from this fossil fuel is now coming to an end after six months of fighting and Nato airstrikes.

"It's true across the whole raw materials sector, particularly in the case of gas and oil, most countries we get these products from don't have the same degree of democracy or market economy and respect for the rule of law we're familiar with. Take China, need I say more?" the German politician admitted.

He suggested that a democratically elected post-Gaddafi government should focus not only on oil revenues, but also solar power and energy efficiency.

Commenting on the draft bill, European Parliament chief Jerzy Buzek, said an energy market was "just as important" as creating the single market in 1992.

He singled out the requirement to exchange information about bilateral deals as a "step towards joint purchasing" and said that the EU negotiating deals for large infrastructure projects will become "ever more necessary."

Centre-right Polish MEP Jacek Saryusz-Wolski told this website that the initiative improves current rules on how to strike energy deals with other countries.

"We need information on the structure of energy relations of the member states with third countries in order to develop a comprehensive energy diplomacy," he said.

Others were more critical. British Conservative MEP Giles Chichester, who specialises in energy issues, slammed it as "the worst kind of meddling," voicing concern over confidentiality and commercial rules.

"Our energy arrangements are Britain's own business, not the commission's. This is an attempt to control and interfere with our individual trading interests on a new and deeply worrying scale. The commission is up to its old empire-building tricks," he said.


Oil and gas companies tarnish EU reputation

EU governments are failing people in resource rich countries by not enforcing strong anti-corruption measures on European multinational companies, writes Jana Mittermaier from Transparency International.

Brussels tells states and companies to use less energy

The European Commission has adopted a 'wait and see' approach over whether to remove surplus carbon credits arising from gains in energy efficiency, from the EU's emissions trading scheme. The question of binding energy efficiency targets was also kicked into touch.

MEPs call for EU to clean up oil, mining industries

The European Parliament has urged EU countries to clean up the mining and oil industries by publishing what companies pay to get their hands on contracts and by giving legal protection to whistleblowers.

EU hesitates to back France over US tariff threat

France has passed a new tax on tech companies that will affect US global giants like Facebook. Donald Trump has threatened retaliatory tariffs over it. The EU commission says it will "coordinate closely with French" on the next steps.

EU banks more vulnerable to shocks than feared

Eurozone banks, such as Deutsche Bank, might be much more vulnerable to a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis than EU "stress-tests" have said, according to a new audit.

News in Brief

  1. Ansip's ex-cabinet chief to head EU cybersecurity agency
  2. Malta starts trial of journalist murder suspects
  3. Full text of von der Leyen candidacy speech to MEPs
  4. Von der Leyen open to further Brexit delay
  5. Von der Leyen promises carbon border tax
  6. Brexit: both UK PM candidates say Irish backstop is 'dead'
  7. Mogherini: Iran's nuclear enrichment 'reversible'
  8. Report: Selmayr to leave 'next week'


Romania enlists priests to promote euro switchover plan

Romania is due to join the single currency in 2024 - despite currently only meeting one of the four criteria. Now the government in Bucharest is enlisting an unlikely ally to promote the euro to the public: the clergy.

Trump and Kurz: not best friends, after all

The visit of Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz to the White House on Wednesday showed that the current rift in transatlantic relations is deepening by the day.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. Son: Malta trial for murdered journalist 'not enough'
  2. Von der Leyen's final appeal to secure top EU post
  3. EU talks tough on Turkey, but arms sales go on
  4. The Abortion Exodus - more Poles and Croats going abroad
  5. Poland's ex-PM loses EU parliament chair again
  6. Von der Leyen reaches out to left and liberal MEPs
  7. Farmers among new MEPs deciding on EU farming money
  8. Von der Leyen's EU vote far from sure

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us