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Polish presidency

Submitted by on 01 May 2011 – 13:18

Herbert Reul MEP, Chairman, EP Industry, Research and Energy Committee Energy

The EU constitutes a tiny part of the Eurasian tectonic plate and does not even encompass all of Europe. Not only Switzerland or Norway but also many countries to the East and South-East are not or not yet members of the EU despite the enlargements in 2004 and 2007.

Turkey, Ukraine and Belorussia play important roles as transit countries for oil and gas, Russia is a major energy supplier with large oil and gas reserves and at the same time also a transit country. Other countries, namely those in the Southern vicinity of Russia also have an important potential either as energy suppliers or transit countries. Thus the Eastern partnership is of primordial importance to the EU – not only but also from an energy perspective.

This became clear to everyone again in the 2009 gas crisis that resulted in shortages in several Member states. The EU has reacted to this crisis. Not only has the European Commission been very active in the negotiations between the belligerent parties, but we have since adopted a new security of gas regulation that intends to improve gas transport between Member states in the future and to avoid such a situation of shortage from happening again. Overall the EU and the gas companies have also reacted in a coordinated manner and helped improve the situation where alternative supply routes were available.

The fact that energy supply security is an important topic is also highlighted by the reform of the oil stocks directive in 2009 and the adoption of the third internal market package in 2008. The European Parliament expects the Polish Presidency to build up pressure on other Member States and lead by example when it comes to implementing this package in order to further enhance energy security.

Thus relations with its Eastern neighbours are rightly ranked high under the upcoming Polish Presidency. The EU should not spare any efforts for promoting region-wide energy systems and facilitating cross-border exchanges aiming to lead to a true regional market for energy which could one day be integrated in the EU market; such a development would benefit both to the region and also the EU’s aim of ensuring security of supply.

A precondition for such a development is however compatibility of both technical and legal norms. The European Energy Community is a good example in this context. But it cannot of course be the role model for all relations with Eastern neighbours. Russia and Turkey for example are unlikely to simply adopt EU legislation in the field of energy. Thus in these cases assuring compatibility might be a solution. Transparency also plays a crucial role. In this respect the EU engagement has led to substantial progress, for example by financing metering stations at the borders, preventing accusations of stealing gas or oil.

The consolidation of the relations between EU and its Eastern Partners in the energy sector depends however on major reforms. The EU should keep lending the necessary support; in this respect, the Third Thematic Platform of the Eastern Partnership on energy security has already identified several actions necessary to reach our common goals which range from enhancing solidarity, development of infrastructure and interconnections with a view to the diversification of supply to promoting energy efficiency and use of renewable resources and the approximation of the regulatory framework. The Polish Presidency needs to encourage further progress in these areas and could seek to promote these goals also in relation to other Eastern partners – the Easter Partnership only referring to six countries.

Two more major topics will be on the agenda of the Polish Presidency: First the new communication by the European Commission on external energy relations. This important document will surely generate quite some debate within the European Parliament as well and I look forward to the discussions.

The second central topic will be of course the stress tests for nuclear power plants in the EU and the neighbourhood. This topic is one of great concern to Members across all political groups and nationalities. The highest safety standards within the EU are useless if nuclear power plants in the immediate vicinity are not safe as well.

The ITRE committee and Parliament as a whole will expect the Polish Presidency to pressure our neighbours, not just those to the East, to also carry out stress tests and to revise, if appropriate, their respective legislation and control practices.

All in all I look forward to seeing the balance move again to hard energy policy topics like security of supply, since the latest discussions have been very much dominated by the issue of climate change, and energy policy has only played an inferior role. As a Chairman of the ITRE Committee I look forward to this first Polish Presidency.