Academic journal article Global Economic Observer

EU Foreign Energy Policy - the Vulnerable Part of Energy Union Strategy

Academic journal article Global Economic Observer

EU Foreign Energy Policy - the Vulnerable Part of Energy Union Strategy

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

The Energy Union strategy has been conceived as an opportunity and a tool to accelerate the transition to a low carbon energy system in Europe. The project of the Energy Union is based on an original idea of Jacques Delors1 and Jerzy Buzek2 from 2010, and later has been developed upon a political proposal of Jacques Delors Institute, "Notre Europe".

According to Aleksandra Gawlikowska-Fyk, head of the energy division at the Polish Institute of International Affairs (PISM), the idea of the Energy Union was the result of a brainstorming session between Donald Tusk, former Polish prime-minister and his then-European Affairs Minister, Piotr Serafim, after the European Council meeting in March 2014. She says that the Tusk proposal was "the voice of Central and Eastern Europe on security of supply". It was not meant "to substitute EU policy, but to supplement it with the long-underestimated energy security issue". (Beckman, 2015)

So, EU Energy union project emerged as a consequence of an objective reality: a long period of time, the concept of energy security could not acquire a real strategic and sustainable dimension because of the different interests of Member States, both internally and in their relations with third-party suppliers. The European Union cannot fully integrate its economy unless energy was part of that integration. Both the 2007 Lisbon Treaty and the Energy Union strategy emphasize that solidarity among EU member states is essential for the European Union to build a common, integrated, and internal energy market.

Energy Union has been designed as a strategy to guide EU energy and climate policy, not as a specific policy itself. In March 2015, the EU Council endorsed the European Commission's "Energy Union" strategy for a comprehensive climate and energy policy as the third of ten overall Commission priorities.(COM (2015)80)

After the Greek bailout strained the concept of a monetary union, the ongoing migration crisis weakened the concept of open internal borders, and the Brexit vote now shows that EU membership itself is fungible, the need for EU solidarity in the energy sector become more important than ever.

The idea is to tear down the physical and regulatory barriers to the free flow of electricity, oil and gas across the EU countries. Something that in the U.S., but not in the EU, has already been achieved. "Energy is the missing piece not only of the EU's internal market but also of the whole European integration," said Jerzy Buzek, former Polish prime minister, now an MEP who chairs the European Parliament's industry and energy committee.

Getting these objectives isn't going to be easy. As the broad and relatively uncontroversial idea of an energy union become more concrete, rising frictions between countries and interest groups have developed.

2. The key dimensions of Energy Union

The EU Energy Union project is based on five pillars (COM (2015)80):

a. Ensuring the security of supply sources for every EU country, because European Union imports 53% of its energy (all sectors combined), leaving it with a high bill despite current low oil prices. "Until the Ukraine crisis, the EU treated superficially the common European energy security issue - with the purpose to protect and take on challenges - even if formally multiple binding documents were developed in this regard. The failure of the common foreign policy, especially in the neighborhood of EU Eastern border, which has radicalized the conflict with Russia until it resorted to annexations, is not likely to support a common energy policy at least in the medium term, simply because of the energy dependence of many EU countries on third-party suppliers outside the EU -an issue involving important security concerns".(Papatulica,2015)

b. Achieving a fully integrated internal market, by improving the flow of electricity and natural gas throughout Europe and promoting healthy competition among energy suppliers and empowering consumers to choose their provider freely;

c. …

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