Europe's energy policy: Just say no

The EU’s energy policy is incoherent to the point of non-existence - but Russia knows exactly what it is doing

Share

Europe has an energy policy - just say ‘no’.  Germany’s Chancellor Merkel says nein to nuclear power. France’s President Hollande says non to shale gas. Britain’s Prime Minister Cameron says no to wind power unless it is a few kilometres out to sea. Poland’s Prime Minister Tusk says nie to any limit on burning brown coal – lignite – the most polluting of any fossil fuel.

In all cases the political leaders have public opinion behind them, and think they will garner votes by saying no to any source of energy the electoral dislikes. The European Commission and European Parliament are saying no - for the time being - to South Stream, the new pipe-line to bring gas from Russia via the Black Sea, Bulgaria, Serbia and Austria. South Stream’s political imperative is to avoid transiting Ukraine just as Russia’s North Stream pipe-line in the Baltic links Russia directly to Germany without traversing Poland.

While the EU’s energy policy is incoherent to the point of non-existence, Russia knows exactly what it is doing – seeking to make Europe ever more dependent on Russian gas. It's a toss up whether Gazprom is an arm of the Russian state, or the Kremlin the political expression of Gazprom.

Certainly the Russian behemoth is everywhere. The Bulgarian Government has stated that it discussed with Gazprom changes to the Black Sea nation’s energy laws which could put South Stream out of reach of European Commission oversight

The European energy Commissioner, Gunter Oettinger wrote a cross letter to Sofia abut this legerdemain and at some stage Brussels will have to decide whether it will get as tough with Gazprom as it did with Microsoft and Intel.

However there is cross-party consensus in Bulgaria in support of South Stream and Bulgaria’s historic pro-Russian warmth is undimmed by the strains of the Ukraine crisis. Western energy firms who have invested in Bulgaria however want fair treatment as well and the main problem Europe faces with Gazprom is its apparent belief that it should not be subject to EU competition law.”

Gazprom sponsors football clubs in Germany, hires the daughter of Romania’s President Basescu as its lawyer in Bucharest, and most famously, has the former German chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, on the payroll.

There is nothing intrinsically wrong in that. Swiss bankers say money has no smell and nor does energy. The West has been dependent for decades on oil from states that finance jihadi terrorism and want the elimination of a UN member state – Israel.

The Kremlin knows what it wants – to make Europe so hooked on Russian energy there will never be any pressure on Russia. But what does the EU want? The Polish prime minister, Donald Tusk, put forward an ambitious plan to create a real EU energy union.

Inspired by the 1950 Coal and Steel union which saw major European nations pool sovereign authority over what was then their main source of energy – coal, and the key component of growth – steel, to a supra-national authority Tusk argues for a single EU purchaser of Russian gas and for Europe to diversity its gas supply to include contracts with the United States or Australia.

He also wants to see an end to market-distorting subsidies such as the billions paid to windmill manufacturers. The Green movement especially in Germany and France have helped accelerate the slow de-industrialisation of Europe but  Mrs Merkel’s Nein to nuclear and Francoise Hollande’s Non to fracking are about politics not economic growth.

Premier Tusk refuses any challenge to his nation’s dependence on lignite and the politics of an energy union which ignore climate change fears will not get off the ground.

However the Polish leader makes the good point that an EU outfit, Euratom is the single purchaser for all the uranium used by 28 member states. If a new body – let’s call it Eurogaz – became the single EU buyer of Russian and other foreign gas then Gaz-Kremlin-Prom would have to play by EU rules instead of having EU nations like Bulgaria defending at any price Gazprom, and behind it, the Kremlin with its divide and rule strategy for Europe.

Once new MEPs and Commissioners are in place creating a European Energy Union would be a project that even Eurosceptics might accept.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: how to spell BBQ and other linguistic irregularities

Guy Keleny
 

South Africa's race problem is less between black and white than between poor blacks and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa

John Carlin
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own