Thursday

23rd Mar 2017

Germany highly critical of EU energy package

  • "Tough, long and difficult" negotiations are expected (Photo: EUobserver)

The European Commission president has thrown his weight behind a sweeping reform of the EU energy market, which ultimately should see the break-up of the bloc's energy giants.

"The commission is clear that the status quo cannot continue...Without change, distortion of competition and fragmentation of the market will continue", Jose Manuel Barroso said on Wednesday (19 September), after the commission gave the green light to the package.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Mr Barroso has also urged the EU capitals as well as European lawmakers "to move quickly to agree these proposals", arguing "EU citizens have every right to expect that we act to energize Europe".

Brussels has clearly spelled out its preference for full ownership unbundling, requiring a company to split its production and transmission wings.

"This is by far the most effective approach", the commission chief said, adding an increasing number of member states are already going down this route.

This could be achieved in two ways – companies may either sell their transmission networks to an independent investor or form new separate business through a shares split.

Dismissed by Germany

Although Mr Barroso anticipated that the negotiations on package will be "tough, long and difficult", Germany's reaction was unusually critical of the proposals.

German economy minister Michael Glos said "the high quality and security of German electrical power networks should not be put in danger."

"The package is all in all too bureaucratic and leads to a high regulatory burden."

Germany "strictly rejects" ownership unbundling, said Mr Glos adding that he is "very sceptical whether through the focus of the commission on ownership unbundling, a way for more competition is found."

"The contrary is more likely," he stated. Germany, along with France, had been the strongest opponents of the unbundling option in the run up to the publication of the proposals.

'Gazprom clause'

The commission also received criticism from elsewhere – albeit more veiled – for another part of the proposal on protecting the EU energy market.

Reacting to Brussels' energy package, Russian state-owned energy giant Gazprom indicated it would present its evaluation of the way these measures will affect security of supply, the competitiveness of European energy markets as well as energy prices in Europe.

"Gazprom has an important contribution to make to the debate about regulation of the energy sector in Europe and feels certain that its voice will be heard", the company's Sergei Kupriyanov said in a written statement.

He has also rushed to remind Europe that "Gazprom is a reliable gas supplier to the European Union and a major investor in the infrastructure which brings gas to Europe".

Under the proposed restrictive rules, foreign buyers who wish to purchase an EU network will have to follow the same unbundling requirements as the union's own firms.

In practice, third countries as well as their individuals should not be able to acquire control over an EU transmission network unless there is agreement between the EU bloc and the companies' country of origin.

However, Mr Barroso has refused to label the safeguards as protectionism – or the Gazprom clause as it has quickly become known.

"This is about fairness; it is about protecting fair competition. It is not about protectionism", he said.

A quarter of the bloc's gas as well as quarter of its oil originates from Russia.

Despite the expected difficulty of the negotiations, the European Commission believes an agreement could be thrashed out under France's six-month EU presidency, starting in July 2008 – with Mr Barroso firmly putting the ball in member states' court.

"Today we put everyone before their responsibilities. If the results are lacking it will not be because of a lack of ambition on the part of the commission", he concluded.

Brussels to announce EU energy sector shake-up

Despite a lack of political appetite in several EU states, the European Commission is set to push ahead with the furthest-reaching reform of the bloc's energy sector yet.

The package includes the forced break-up of Europe's energy giants as well as a protective shield against countries such as Russia.

Eurozone chief in 'drinks and women' row

[Updated] The Netherlands' Jeroen Dijsselbloem faces calls for resignation after saying that crisis-hit countries in southern Europe spent "money on drinks and women" before being helped by others.

Greek bailout talks to 'intensify'

Greece and its creditors will meet in Brussels later this week to unblock negotiations needed for a new tranche of financial aid, amid concerns over the country's economic situation.

Varoufakis back in push for ECB transparency

The former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis and German left-wing MEP Fabio De Masi want to know whether the European Central Bank overstepped its powers when putting capital controls on Greek banks in 2015.

Stolen Russian billions ended up in EU states

Illicit money flowing out of Russia ended up in almost every single EU state, an investigation has found, posing questions on the integrity of Europe’s banking systems.

News in Brief

  1. Man arrested in Antwerp after trying to mow people down
  2. Marine Le Pen goes to Russia
  3. Dutch post-election talks prioritise green-right coalition
  4. EU summons Turkish envoy over threats to Europeans
  5. British police make first arrests in London terror probe
  6. EU commission has received Facebook reply on WhatsApp
  7. Rome expects thousands of protesters at summit
  8. Dijsselbloem says his comments had 'Dutch directness'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EJCExpresses Concern That Extremists Still Have the Ability and Motivation to Murder in Europe
  2. European Gaming & Betting AssociationAudiovisual Media Services Directive to Exclude Minors from Gambling Ads
  3. ILGA-EuropeTime for a Reality Check on International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
  4. UNICEFHuman Cost to Refugee and Migrant Children Mounts Up One Year After EU-Turkey Deal
  5. Malta EU 2017Council Adopts New Rules to Improve Safety of Medical Devices
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Research: How to Reach 100 Percent Renewable Energy
  7. Party of European SocialistsWe Must Renew Europe for All Europeans
  8. MEP Tomáš ZdechovskýThe European Commission Has Failed in Its Fight Against Food Waste
  9. ILGA-EuropeEP Recognises Discrimination Faced by Trans & Intersex People
  10. Nordic Council of Ministers25 Nordic Bioeconomy Cases for Sustainable Change
  11. Malta EU 2017Consumer Protection Laws to Be Strengthened by EU-Wide Cooperation
  12. European Free AllianceSupporting Artur Mas: Democracy and Freedom Cannot Be Convicted

Latest News

  1. May: London attacker was known to the police
  2. Ending the migrant deal with Turkey may save the EU
  3. Poland unlikely to face EU discipline on rule of law
  4. Rutte courted Wilders' voters, now he must deliver
  5. Barnier to UK: trade talks will come after settling accounts
  6. EU declaration to voice unity in troubled times
  7. Terror attack shuts down UK parliament
  8. Catalonia and Scotland at core of Europe's geopolitical conundrum