Friday

1st Jul 2022

EU seeks oversight powers on energy security

  • New oversight powers target Russian supplier Gazprom, without naming it directly (Photo: gazprom.com)

The European Commission wants to vet all major new gas deals with non-EU suppliers under extra powers unveiled on Tuesday (16 February) to prevent the type of supply crises seen in 2009.

Under the proposal, member states would be obliged to share details of forthcoming accords with non-EU countries on issues such as prices, maximum daily volumes and conditions for suspending deliveries.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

EU officials would then issue “recommendations” that the member state would have to follow, or risk ending up in the EU court in Luxembourg.

The commission called for a similar regime on contracts between private companies, which are normally subject to commercial secrecy, if those contracts gave a non-EU supplier 40 percent of more of a single country’s market share.

It also said EU states should be obliged to share gas with their neighbours in the event of a supply crunch to cover essential services such as hospitals and schools, which would take priority over domestic industrial users.

Supply crunches

Introducing the measures, which must be approved by member states and by the European Parliament before they become law, EU energy commissioner Miguel Arias Canete said: “To prevent gas supplies' crises, national policies are not enough.”

Alluding to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine - an attack by the EU’s main gas supplier on its main transit state - he said: “With political tensions on our borders still on a knife edge, this is a sharp reminder that this problem is not just going to go away.”

He added that previous energy security upgrades still left the EU “vulnerable” to major disruptions.

He also noted that up to one third of member states’ 124 intergovernmental energy supply pacts currently fall foul of EU law.

The first gas crunch in recent times came when Russia cut the supply to Belarus, a minor transit route, in a commercial dispute in 2004.

It did it again via Ukraine in 2006, and again also via Ukraine in 2009. The 2009 crisis led to blackouts in Russia-dependent states such as Bulgaria at the height of winter.

But Russian gas kept flowing in the Cold War and its main supplier, Gazprom, has kept it flowing despite the Ukraine war, which began in 2014.

But the EU itself, back in 2014, proposed potential economic sanctions on Russia that would stop oil and gas imports in the event of a serious escalation of the Ukraine conflict.

Nord Stream controversy

Russia is also in talks to double the capacity of its Nord Stream pipeline to Germany, despite the Ukraine crisis, with construction of the new leg dubbed Nord Stream II to start in April.

Canete noted the Nord Stream II project had become “highly political” after eastern and southerly EU states accused Germany of breaking EU solidarity.

He said the commission is still assessing whether the project conforms with EU law on third-party pipeline access and on decoupling production and distribution assets.

He added that if Germany went ahead, the new deal would also be subject to the 40 percent or more oversight clause.

"If it goes over the threshold, all contracts with the supplier have to be notified," Canete said.

Opinion

Sustainable energy must be citizen owned

Europe cannot afford to take the wind out of its energy transition. People and communities must be guaranteed the right to take energy production and energy savings into their own hands.

Stakeholder

Europe needs integrated energy solutions

Europe needs secure, affordable and sustainable energy for all - the integration of power generation, heating, cooling, buildings, transport and ICT is part of the solution.

Green crime-fighting boss urgently required, key MEP says

The European Parliament approved last week a non-binding resolution on illegal logging, calling to extend the EU public prosecutor's mandate to also cover environmental crime. The lead MEP on the file has called for urgent implementation.

News in Brief

  1. EU Parliament 'photographs protesting interpreters'
  2. Poland still failing to meet EU judicial criteria
  3. Report: Polish president fishing for UN job
  4. Auditors raise alarm on EU Commission use of consultants
  5. Kaliningrad talks needed with Russia, says Polish PM
  6. Report: EU to curb state-backed foreign takeovers
  7. EU announces trade deal with New Zealand
  8. Russia threatens Norway over goods transit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  4. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers for culture: Protect Ukraine’s cultural heritage!
  6. Reuters InstituteDigital News Report 2022

Latest News

  1. Nato's Madrid summit — key takeaways
  2. Czech presidency to fortify EU embrace of Ukraine
  3. Covid-profiting super rich should fight hunger, says UN food chief
  4. EU pollution and cancer — it doesn't have to be this way
  5. Israel smeared Palestinian activists, EU admits
  6. MEPs boycott awards over controversial sponsorship
  7. If Russia collapses — which states will break away?
  8. EU Parliament interpreters stage strike

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us