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Commission proposes stricter third party energy rules

Governments negotiating major energy deals with countries outside the European Union may need to get approval from the European Commission under proposed new rules.08 Sep 2011

Under a plan proposed by Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger the Commission would be able to negotiate energy agreements at EU level on behalf of national governments where these have a "large bearing on... EU policy objectives".

A new "coherent approach" is necessary to "ensure the security of energy supplies to Europe," said Oettinger.

The Commission communication (19-page / 79KB PDF) outlines 43 proposals including a new partnership on renewable energy projects with the Southern Mediterranean counties; a greater emphasis on improving access to sustainable energy for developing countries, and urging the EU to promote the highest global safety, security and environmental standards.

The Commission also plans to set up an information exchange mechanism allowing member states to discuss proposed energy deals with third party countries at an EU level before and after external negotiations. This will "strengthen the negotiating position of member states", the Commission said.

The mechanism will also allow the Commission to intervene where energy agreements directly touch on "internal market legislation", the document said. In certain circumstances the Commission may also "give an ex-ante assessment of the conformity of a future intergovernmental agreement with the EU law" before the agreement is signed.

The draft policy also called for the EU to seek out new energy links with third party counties as well as building deeper ties with Russia and Ukraine. Approximately 20% of the EU's gas supply passes through Ukraine.

Member states currently import 80% of their oil and over 60% of their gas from countries outside the EU, particularly from Russia, Norway and Algeria, according to Commission figures.

More than half the growth in global energy demand in the next 25 years will come from China and India, putting EU supplies at risk, the report said.

"The EU energy policy has made real progress over the last several years. Now the EU must extend the achievements of its large internal energy market beyond its borders to ensure the security of energy supplies to Europe and foster international energy partnerships," said Oettinger.

Improved internal coordination would help member states "act together and speak with one voice," he added.

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