ECONOMY

EU calls for ‘one voice’ on energy

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European Union countries must «speak with the same voice» on energy issues, integrate gas and electricity grids, diversify fuel supplies and lead the world in energy savings, the EU’s executive Commission will recommend. A highly anticipated paper, a draft of which was seen by Reuters, lays out the groundwork for a common energy policy in the 25-nation bloc by listing priorities for discussion by EU leaders at a summit in March. British Prime Minister Tony Blair and German Chancellor Angela Merkel recently renewed calls for more coherence on energy issues which have intensified after a Russia-Ukraine gas dispute temporarily cut supplies to Europe earlier this year. Concerns about any use by Russia of its vast oil and gas reserves for political purposes plus the global surge in oil prices has focused EU governments on the need to reduce their reliance on foreign sources of fuel. Official predictions show the EU’s import dependence could grow to 70 percent of general energy consumption by 2030. The paper, titled «Secure, Competitive and Sustainable Energy Policy for Europe,» explores diversifying EU supply «by fuel, by source and by supply route,» establishing ways to intervene if specific EU nations face energy crises and acting together when addressing the rest of the world on energy issues. Internally, the EU should become a global leader in the research and development of energy sources with low emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2). It should also remain «the most energy efficient region in the world» and work hard to ensure gas and electricity customers can choose between suppliers. The paper, drawn up by Commission energy experts, makes few concrete proposals, reflecting the difficulty in forming a common vision from a patchwork of energy policies that many EU states consider sovereign matters. In addition to an already successful EU «dialogue» with Russia, the paper suggests adopting cooperation pacts with «other key producer and transit partners of the EU, notably our eastern neighbours, the Caspian Basin, Central Asia, the southern Mediterranean, the Middle East and the Gulf region.» The paper took a neutral stand on nuclear energy, calling for a «transparent and objective debate» on its role and saying the costs and advantages should be spelled out.