Poland’s prime minister Donald Tusk will be in Brussels tomorrow (21 May) to present his “Energy Union” proposal** during the Commission’s energy security strategy meeting. What to make of the proposal and how to respond it?
On first reading, it would be easy to dismiss the plan as a mixture of either unnecessary or unworkable ideas. Other than its headline slogan (“Energy Union”) the shopping list has no unifying concept. And to a large extent, Europe is already pursuing most of the six elements the plan contains, namely:
- infrastructure (1st pillar) e.g. 2013 PCI & CEF regulations
- solidarity (2nd pillar) e.g. gas reverse flows, gas & power inter-connections
- diversification, if one counts efficiency, savings & renewables (4th or 5th pillar, depending on definitions) e.g. 2009 RES & 2012 EE directives i.a.
- Energy Community reform (6th pillar) e.g. on-going Buzek high-level group
While some actions in each area above could be strengthened, revisiting or duplicating these programmes and reviews would waste time better used to focus on delivery.
Meanwhile, neither an unqualified (i.e. climate-blind) dash to dig and drill fossil fuels across Europe (4th pillar, as presented) nor a ‘single-buyer’ agency (apparently only for Gazprom; 3rd pillar) are anywhere near realistic and so are not going to happen. Both ideas are in any case disallowed by existing treaty provisions at least to some extent.
But, instead of dismissing the paper, what if we ask what simple step could be taken to reinforce our collectively ability to help build more resilient energy systems for the future? In other words, how could the European Union create in itself an Energy Union?
Here is one simple suggestion. Amend EU treaty energy provisions by the deletion of the single sentence highlighted below.
The European Council could decide this without delay using the simplified revision procedure in Article 48 TEU, used already to help fast-track the Euro-zone Stability Mechanism in 2011 (cf. EurLex). To show what it would look like, here (‘Blue Peter’ style) is a draft treaty amendment that I prepared earlier.
Why do this?
Although the Union’s basic energy policy objectives in Article 194 paragraph 1 are all good ones, the possibility for Europe to realise fully these objectives is limited by the conditions highlighted in paragraph 2. Deleting this sentence broadens the scope of EU action on energy into a genuinely shared competence.
Et voilà! With remarkably little effort, a real Energy Union fit to serve us for the 21st Century!
Specific European legislation would still need be adopted in the usual way: qualified majority in Council, co-decision with Parliament, and simple majority in Commission, and all still under the general Article 5 principles of conferral, proportionality and subsidiarity.
All said, it would not be a surprise however if Poland’s vociferous domestic coal lobby did not allow Poland’s government to support a treaty amendment for a genuine ‘Energy Union’, more so with elections due next year. Even if this is so, the country’s representatives still need to explain how, alternatively, Europe can meet its energy and other objectives as laid down in the EU treaties.
Perhaps Mr Tusk will tell us tomorrow?
** Though treaty provisions require the EU to work as openly as possible, the Polish government has so far not published its ‘non-paper’ “Roadmap towards an Energy Union for Europe” . The 9-page memo can however be read here.