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From the European Energy Community to the Energy Union

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Jacques Delors | founding president of the Jacques Delors Institute
Sami Andoura | senior research fellow at the Jacques Delors Institute, professor and holder of the European energy policy chair at the College of Europe
Jean-Arnold Vinois | adviser at the Jacques Delors Institute

The European Council has called for an Energy Union, of which the content has not yet been defined. The promotion of the “Energy Union” at the forefront of the organisation and priorities of the European Commission announces a decisive breakthrough that must be made a reality based on three complementary guidelines.

First of all, the Energy Union is a unique opportunity to put energy back at the heart of European integration and breaking away from the fragmented, short-termist and inward-looking approach that is dangerously looming over Europe, its member states and its citizens. Under pressure from political events and economic and social uncertainty, European people are losing the feeling of having a common heritage—of living and of knowing how to live together. The energy sector is no exception to these current weaknesses of the European and national political systems. Why then, could energy not take its natural central place in the European project, in line with what European citizens have been demanding for several years now? We must now find a new shared impetus, and reconsider how we live and govern together in the field of energy.

Second, the Energy Union requires decisive actions for a long-term European energy transition project. It is the catalyst for the necessary new sustainable economic development model. The focus of the European energy system must shift from the supply side to the demand side, and from an unsustainable production model to a model aimed at reducing consumption, and therefore demand. A new industrial strategy must be developed, based on innovation and the implementation of digital and information technologies in the energy sector.

The Energy Union is inclusive. It creates wealth and well-being for all Europeans. It promotes solidarity, such as ensuring an energy supply for all at a universally affordable price. Offering young generations a better education and training in the challenges and opportunities provided by this new European energy transition model is a task that the EU is capable of performing. A European social dialogue in the energy sector is necessary to support this far-reaching change in terms of employment. Energy poverty is a growing European phenomenon that must be addressed by the EU as part of a genuine social policy, and as part of a genuine development policy vis-à-vis the African, Asian and many other populations who do not even have access to energy.

The Energy Union includes European energy diplomacy that promotes our energy transition project and defends European interests across the globe, and in particular in European trade policies. Whether on a bilateral or multilateral level, the key idea is not speaking with one voice, but conveying a clear and unequivocal European message, regardless of the spokesperson. It builds its energy future on sound foundations, based on a European Energy and Climate Information Agency.

The Energy Union is a return to simplicity and puts the community method back at the heart of the interplay between the European institutions. A virtual energy forum bringing together all players and simplifying the current consultation methods would make it accessible to all and ensure its general acceptance. These are the main advantages of an Energy Union comprised of the 28 Member States and all EU Institutions.

Last but not least, none of these actions requires institutional changes or modifications to existing treaties. The critical mass of the EU, bolstered by its internal market and its 500 million citizens/consumers, must be maximised. However, the current internal energy market is not moving in this direction. The priority for the EU in the very short term is to revise its current energy policy. The internal energy market must be finalised as an instrument for the optimisation of energy resources by all stakeholders, including consumers. The EU must be given its rightful role in the international arena, and in particular with regards to neighbouring third countries, reflecting the interdependence of economies rather than counting on short-term actions lacking an overall vision. The European governance must also be strengthened, with the regional dimension as an essential intermediary step. Rather than being developed with a silo mentality, the European energy policy must be interconnected with all other relevant policies.

We welcome the priority granted to the Energy Union by the EU institutions. It must be followed by strong and unifying European actions and projects based on the fundamental values and principles of integration, cooperation and solidarity. They must now be put forward by the European Commission and debated, adopted and implemented by all stakeholders. It is time to find new enthusiasm for an ideal that remains utopian but that can be achieved. We have no time to lose.

By Claire VERSINI
Responsable des Événements / Event coordinator
Responsable des archives de Jacques Delors, Président fondateur / Responsible for the archives of Jacques Delors, Founding president.

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