The EU could be close to launching a more coherent approach to energy after member states agreed to share information about energy deals with non-EU countries with the Commission once the contracts were signed. However, the Commission and the Parliament will not be able to scrutinise the deals before that happens, under the compromise worked out by MEPs and the Council. The Parliament will vote on the proposal in plenary on Thursday 13 September. In 2011 the Commission proposed new rules on energy deals requiring member states to communicate on all inter-governmental agreements on energy supplies from non-EU countries. This would help the Commission to check that these agreements are in line with EU energy law and enable it to strengthen member states’ position during negotiations.
Energy supply is ensured mostly through bilateral trades, and there is no coherent EU approach to energy relations with non-EU countries. However, there are common EU rules to make sure citizens and companies can enjoy secure and affordable energy supplies.
Initially, the Commission and the Parliament wanted to be able to comb through energy agreements before they were finalised, but this demand was dropped following negotiations with the Council out of fear that otherwise member states would reject the legislation altogether. The compromise was approved by the Parliament’s industry committee on 19 June, although one third of its members voted against.
“Some legislation is better than no legislation. It’s better to have one step, it’s on the books, we can amend it (later) and have it stronger,” said Christian-Democrat MEP Krišjānis Kariņš, who is responsible for steering the legislation through Parliament. The Latvian MEP continued: “This legislation will increase transparency in energy supply agreements with third countries, thereby ensuring that EU law is adhered to. It will also create a base for coordinated action by member states in the field of energy.”
With fewer powers than initially foreseen, the Commission could still play an active role monitoring the conformity of energy deals and will be able to take part in negotiations as an observer, but only with the approval of member states concerned.
The draft decision also addresses confidentiality concerns expressed by some member states. Mr Kariņš explained: “If a government indicates that certain information is confidential then the Commission respects that confidentiality and does not distribute it to other member states. It’s a safeguard.”
Not all MEPs agree with the compromise in its current shape. Social Democrat MEP Peter Skinner said: “For S&D it is essential to have ex ante opinion by the Commission before deals are signed in order to completely verify their compatibility with existing internal energy market legislation.” The British MEP added that S&D will propose new amendments during the plenary process to strengthen the legislation.
Green MEP Claude Turmes, from Luxembourg, added “If we want EU speak with one voice, we need something which goes further.”