20th Mar 2018

Ljubljana to house new EU energy body

Slovenia's capital, Ljubljana, is set to become more visible on the political map of the 27-nation EU as the city has been selected to house the union's Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER), designed to boost the idea of a single European market in electricity and gas.

The decision - taken by EU ministers in charge of energy on Sunday evening (6 December) - puts an end to what was described as "a tough game" between three contestants. Slovakia's Bratislava came in second, while the third bidder, Bucharest in Romania, enjoyed the least support.

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"It is a historical day for Slovenia," Slovenian minister Matej Lahovnik said in response to the outcome. In the past, his country failed to get Frontex, the agency responsible for security of the union's external borders, as well as the European Institute for Gender Equality.

According to EU energy commissioner Andris Piebalgs, the new energy body "is something like the European Central Bank in the area of energy ... because it will take very important binding decisions inside the EU."

"We know Brussels, Luxembourg, Strasbourg, Frankfurt and we will know Ljubljana," the commissioner said, indirectly underlining that the energy dossier is gaining in political influence.

The idea to set up the Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (Acer) was given the green light in April 2009, together with rules to further liberalise the union's gas and electricity market.

The year-and-a-half-long process leading to the decision saw heated debate over whether to break up EU energy giants into production and supply units as well as wrangling over Acer's future powers.

Several EU capitals were quick to make sure that the agency - foreseen to receive up to €7 million from EU coffers each year - would not curtail the powers of national regulators. In the end, the body secured legally-binding powers over disputes involving cross-border pipelines and networks, should national operators fail to agree on a solution.

In addition, it will have a say in the creation of European network rules - a development that should also boost the idea of a single EU energy market.

The agency will prepare technical decisions on helping electricity and gas circulate freely within the 27-nation bloc, commissioner Pieblags said, stressing that there "won't be a Slovenian, Latvian or German market, but only an EU market."

ACER is expected to be fully up and running from 3 March 2011.

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The EU also agreed on financing a study into the Southern Gas Corridor, to send a signal that the EU is still invested in the project - but leaves questions over renewable energy sources.

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