Civil society needs to be involved in all aspects of the Energy Union
In the debate with Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič the EESC stressed the importance of establishing an intelligent, efficient and sustainable EU external energy policy and the need for a shared vision – rather than mere technical/administrative reporting – to ensure that the Energy Union objectives are effectively pursued.
There should be a greater focus on the social dimension of the Energy Union according to the EESC’s opinion on the State of the Energy union 2015 (Rapporteur: Stephane Buffetaut, Employers’ Group) adopted during the EESC plenary session on 28 April. According to the Committee it should be included among the evaluation criteria in the next annual report. The opinion points out that the Energy Union should have a positive impact on job creation, competitiveness and innovation but at the same time it could affect certain sectors, resulting in the need for social assistance and training. The EESC would also like to see civil society involved in the annual report process– this process is of great concern for consumer associations, business representatives, trade unions, farmers, environmental associations, scientists and researchers and they should play an important role in the governance and progress reporting on the Energy Union.
During the plenary debate with EESC members, Commission Vice-President Šefčovič thanked the EESC for its support for the Energy Union so far and stressed the importance of the European Energy Dialogue proposed by the EESC. “We do not only need an ambitious EU energy policy, we also need ambitious national plans in the Member States. This is where the European Energy Dialogue, proposed by the EESC will be of crucial importance,” said Commissioner Šefčovič. “The Energy Union cannot be built in Brussels – it requires the support of the Member States and the full support of EU citizens.”
“We need to add the social criteria to the annual report on the State of the Energy Union,” replied the EESC Rapporteur Stephane Buffetaut. “The European Energy Dialogue could be structured around the annual assessment process.”
In its opinion on the State of the Energy Union 2015 the EESC sees a need for improvement in the statistical foundations of the progress reporting – some of them are outdated, others incomprehensive or even non-existent. The Commission should do its best to obtain more up-to-date data from the Member States.
The EESC remarks that the governance of the Energy Union cannot be reduced to a purely administrative process but requires a strong political will and shared vision in the Member states and the EU institutions. We need to establish a real European dialogue on energy which involves all Europeans whether consumers, representatives of environmental organisations, workers, employers, farmers, city or country dwellers or retired people – in brief civil society organisations and specific population groups which are directly and specifically affected by energy issues on a daily basis. The Energy Union must go beyond bureaucracy and decision-makers in Brussels and the Member states need to take resolute political action in order to succeed.
The EESC urged once more the Commission and national governments to give a broad role to civil society organisations in the energy debate in its opinion on the external dimension of the EU’s energy policy (Rapporteur: Vitas Maciulis, Various Interests Group) adopted on 28 April. “Three factors are of crucial importance for the external dimension of energy: diversification, “speaking with one voice” and a properly developed internal energy system”, said Mr Maciulis during the plenary session. Commissioner Šefčovič fully agreed with the need for diversification and pointed out the regional dimension of energy security.
A key challenge for the EU is that more than 50% of the energy consumed comes from imports. The EU imports more than 44% of solid fuels, more than 87% of petroleum and petroleum products and more than 65% of natural gas. All these imports must be secured through certain trade policies. The circle of energy import partners must be expanded by looking for and establishing dialogues with new, reliable and predictable energy suppliers. The EESC is also of the opinion that new major infrastructure projects, which contribute to the diversification goals should be in line with the objectives of the Energy Union and the EU acquis.
A strong external dimension of the EU’s energy policy can only stem from a common internal EU position. The EESC insists that “speaking with one voice” must be pursued in spite of the different energy mixes, energy import structures and traditional partners among the Member states.