Thursday

11th Aug 2022

Energy union talks show signs of divisions to come

  • Latvian energy minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola, between EU energy commissioners Sefcovic (l) and Canete (Photo: The Council of the European Union)

The EU's energy union proposals were given a preliminary thumbs-up by ministers on Thursday (5 March) but there were already signs of disagreement to come.

Unveiled by the European Commission last week, the paper suggests ways to achieve energy independence for the bloc as well as how member states should contribute to reaching the EU’s green goals.

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

"I think there has been full support for the proposal of the commission at this stage", said climate change commissioner Miguel Arias Canete after the ministerial meeting.

But he admitted that: “When we come to pieces of legislation, things might be a little bit difficult."

And in a sign that things will get more complicated when it comes down to legislative proposals, Austrian energy minister Reinhold Mitterlehner said: “Everyone interprets the Energy Union paper in his own way.”

Mitterlehner also noted that Vienna raised the thorny issue of nuclear energy, a no-go topic in Austria itself, but supported in other countries.

“We want a clarification that it is not about [promoting] nuclear energy. As far as I know some states are arguing the opposite, that they want it to be included in the strategy more explicitly”, he said.

Germany, which is phasing out nuclear energy, on Thursday also made sharp remarks on the issue.

“There are now countries in the EU who want to support nuclear energy with state money, with tax money. We consider that as absolutely out of the question”, said energy minister Sigmar Gabriel, adding that nuclear energy is “expensive” and “dangerous”.

Meanwhile, Greece expressed opposition to the proposal to share information with Brussels when negotiating a gas contract with a non-EU country. Energy minister Panagiotis Lafazanis said he feared “bureaucratic constraints”.

The minister said that he is worried the EU's energy plans may increase inequality and benefit “big business”, according to sources with knowledge of the meeting.

Different member states also chose to emphasise different parts of the proposals.

“We heard different levels of emphasis on the dimensions of the Energy Union. Many colleagues have stressed the importance on a fully functioning energy market, while the others really underlined the primary importance of the greater energy security”, said Latvian energy minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola.

And even before the paper was published it ran into opposition.

Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban said the energy union is something that “hinders national sovereignty” – a point raised by some member states in the room on Thursday too.

Specific legislative proposals are due in the coming years, with a draft law giving the European Commission a bigger say in a country's gas contract negotiations expected by 2016.

Brussels wants stronger role in gas deals

The European Commission wants to be more closely involved when its member states negotiate energy contracts, under plans for an energy union unveiled Wednesday.

Opinion

EU urgently needs real energy union

Rising risks from beyond our borders and challenges from within can be tackled in a comprehensive approach to the EU's energy needs.

EU hopeful of Iran nuclear deal

A possible deal to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear pact is within reach, says the European Union. Washington backs the final proposals, but Tehran remains cautious.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  3. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  6. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us