5th Mar 2024

German minister slams commission energy paper

  • Not enough attention has been paid to renewable energy, according to the environment minister (Photo: Luxembourg EU Presidency)

German environment minister Sigmar Gabriel has sharply criticised the European Commission for focusing too heavily on energy security, while disregarding renewable energy and spending too much cash on nuclear power.

According to the German daily Handelsblatt, Mr Gabriel formulated his criticism in a position paper for his own social democrat SPD party.

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The German minister argues the commission’s energy paper, presented last week, demonstrated a one-sided interest in the security of energy provision, when other goals like the fight against climate change should be given equal weight.

"The real challenge consists of a joint achievement of these goals," the minister writes.

He argued the EU should formulate clear targets for renewable energy by 2010 as well as define a post-2020 strategy against global warming.

Mr Gabriel also stated that Brussels' spending on nuclear research is disproportionate given the fact that a majority of member states have opted not to produce atomic energy.

"The commission should take note: the clear majority of member states – 17 out of 25 – runs no nuclear plants. Not a single one of these states has so far considered entering this form of power supply."

The German politician suggested the budget for Euratom, the EU’s nuclear supply agency, should be shifted to other forms of energy supply.

Between 2002 to 2006, the EU spent €1.23 billion on nuclear research, "two and a half times as much as EU research money on all forms of renewable energy put together," Mr Gabriel writes.

National sovereignty

On top of this, the minister spoke out strongly in favour of national sovereignty over member states' "energy mix," describing plans to organise different forms of energy provision at the EU level as "adventurous."

The remark is in line with the general sentiment in national capitals on Brussels’ drive to create an EU energy policy.

Energy ministers meeting in Brussels on Tuesday (14 March) issued a joint statement which contained strong wording on "fully respecting" member states' "sovereignty" on the key issues of which type of energy to use and where to get it from.

The joint statement also did not mention European Commission ideas on creating a common energy regulator.

German energy debate

Mr Gabriel's position paper partly reflects the ambition of his own SPD party to fully phase out nuclear power, as decided by the previous German government led by SPD chancellor Gerhard Schroder.

But the SPD is now the smallest partner in a coalition led by the conservative CDU/CSU of chancellor Angela Merkel.

CDU/CSU politicians have indicated Germany might reconsider its goal to remove nuclear power from its "energy mix" altogether in view of supply security and climate change goals.

Meanwhile, Ms Merkel wants to double Germany’s energy efficiency by 2010, according to internal government papers seen by Die Welt.

A "national initiative" with this aim should be launched at a national energy summit on 3 April.

Berlin’s economic minister Michael Glos said energy efficiency will play a "central role" in the German EU presidency in 2007.

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