17th Sep 2019

De Villepin calls for new EU energy tsar

French prime minister Dominique de Villepin has proposed a new EU energy representative and a high-profile summit with the bloc's energy suppliers during next year's German EU presidency.

Speaking at the International Bertelsmann Forum in Berlin on Friday (22 September), Mr de Villepin suggested that a new EU special representative on energy - negotiating on behalf of the bloc's member states - should work closely with foreign policy chief Javier Solana and energy commissioner Andris Piebalgs.

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  • The French PM argues Europe needs a new representative to speak with one voice on energy issues (Photo: European Commission)

"Our weight in negotiations with producers will increase in proportion to our ability to speak with a single voice," he said, according to press reports.

"The special representative for energy could organize early next year, under the German presidency, a summit bringing together Europeans and their main gas and oil producing neighbours: Algeria, Norway and Russia of course, but also for example the countries from the Caspian Sea region such as Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan," said Mr de Villepin.

"With these close neighbours we already have partnership agreements that cover numerous aspects of our relations. Now that energy is playing an expanding role in our trade, it is time we signed agreements dealing specifically with this issue."

The French government leader gave strong backing to the idea of a single EU approach to energy - but said citizens should be protected from mounting prices.

"The liberalisation of energy markets is not understood by our citizens. That is what they blame as the main cause of their bills rising. It is up to us to explain that the only long-term answer is to create a great European energy market," he said.

European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso, however, rebuffed the idea of another EU energy chief.

"We already have an excellent energy commissioner who is doing a very good job," Mr Barroso said according to Financial Times.

Putin pledges heated winter

Meanwhile, Russian president Vladimir Putin assured German and French leaders of secure Russian energy imports during this year's winter.

At a meeting in Paris on Saturday (23 September), Mr Putin stressed Russia would fulfil its duties towards its partners in Europe, pointing out that energy co-operation was a high priority for his government, the BBC reported.

He was reacting to concerns raised by events in January when several European countries were affected by Moscow cutting off gas supplies to Ukraine following a spat over prices. The EU imports about 25 percent of its natural gas from Russia.

Mr Putin also commented on the Energy Charter Treaty, a document aimed at integrating the Russian energy markets into the broader European and world markets based on liberal principles, which the EU is pressing Moscow to adopt.

The Russian president said that the charter should be amended or completely re-drafted, adding that in its present form the treaty harmed Russian interests.

"Our producers, who have long-term contracts for [energy] supplies, are unhappy because it [the Charter] puts us in an unfavourable situation in signing long-term transit contracts," he said, according to RIA Novosti.

Defending the 'European way of life' name splits MEPs

European People's Party group leader Manfred Weber defended Ursula von der Leyen's decision to rename a commission portfolio, partly dealing with migration, "protecting the European way of life". He said it means rescuing people in the Mediterranean.

Hungary claims EU 'witch-hunt' over rule of law hearing

Hungary was quizzed by EU ministers over its domestic crackdown on media, judges, academia and NGOs. Hungary's minister responded by saying the country had defended "the European way of life" for centuries, and it should be respected.

EU divided on how to protect rule of law

Poland and Hungary have argued that rule of law is purely a domestic matter and the EU should respect legal traditions, but Dutch foreign minister warned backsliding was a worry for all.

Catalonia celebrates national day ahead of trial verdicts

Catalonia celebrated on Wednesday its national day - while awaiting the trial verdict on 12 Catalan separatists, former politicians of Carles Puigdemont's government. That decision is expected for early October.

Those tricky commissioner candidates in full

Three central European commission nominees can expect to feel the heat from MEPs later this month, with the Hungarian candidate emerging as the most controversial.

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