How a European Energy Union can build a stronger and more resilient EU

As a member of the Industry, Research and Energy Committee in the European Parliament, one of my main priorities is the development of an Energy Union that will help to provide secure, sustainable, competitive, and affordable energy right across the EU.

The latest figures show that the EU imports 53% of its energy at a cost of around €400 billion, making it the largest energy importer in the world. Europe must become more energy efficient and less dependent on foreign supplies.

The year-long conflict in Ukraine has highlighted just how much we need an Energy Union in Europe. Almost 100% of Ukraine’s gas is supplied by Russia, making it vulnerable to Russian coercion.

With the EU also at loggerheads with Russia over the situation in Ukraine, it is keen to reduce its energy dependence on Russia. Russia supplies 30% of the EU’s gas and half of that comes via Ukraine, meaning that the EU can also be susceptible to Russian political game-playing. In fact Russian gas pipelines have been described as “the long fingers of the Kremlin”, opening the way for Russian political, as well as economic, influence.

The EU has taken steps to loosen Russia’s grip on its energy supply. In 2012, Russia planned to build a new gas pipeline (the South Stream Project), but the European Commission blocked this on grounds that it would violate EU anti-monopoly laws. The EU would only support such projects if they were transparent, viable, and if they were supported by neighbouring countries. The then Energy Commissioner, Gunther Oettinger, also criticised the South Stream Project on strategic grounds, saying it would be inappropriate to take part in the project in the context of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.

Now there are new plans for the Turkish Stream – a gas pipeline which would run between Russia and Turkey via the Black Sea – but these have again been criticised by EU officials. Current Vice-President and Commissioner for the Energy Union, Maroš Šefčovič, has condemned the Turkish Stream as a political project designed to weaken Ukraine and increase EU dependence on Russia.

The EU’s overreliance on Russian energy fused with Russia’s political instability does not bode well for European energy consumers who already face high, fluctuating energy prices. The Energy Union can provide what Europe so desperately needs. The Energy Union strategy aims to bring greater energy security, sustainability and competitiveness to the EU by creating a fully integrated European energy market, decarbonising the economy and enhancing energy research and innovation.

I have been working closely with my colleagues in the Socialists and Democrats political group in the Parliament to deliver our vision for an Energy Union. We want to see a sustainable energy transition; smart energy infrastructure; new public and private investment; a strong industrial base and a greater focus on investing in research and development – all whilst keeping people at the centre stage. Without a doubt, an Energy Union would build a stronger and more resilient EU.

You can read our Energy Union paper in full here.