1. Commissioner's priorities
What are the main priorities you intend to pursue in your Energy Union portfolio? What timetable do you envisage for achieving those priorities? What are the specific legislative and non-legislative initiatives you intend to put forward, and according to what timetable?
Achieving an European Energy Union with a forward-looking climate change policy will be one of the priority projects of the next Commission. Affordable, secure and sustainable energy is key for our citizens, businesses and our continent.
This will require the mobilisation of a wide range of legislative, policy and financial instruments across many sectors of our economy and in different policy areas. To this end, we will need well-coordinated action and good teamwork within the Commission as well as, from the very beginning, close cooperation with the European Parliament, the Council, Member States and all other stakeholders involved to create as broad a consensus as possible. This will be a very complex task, and we will need an ambitious and integrated agenda to make Europe's energy policy better.
The main elements for this policy are clear:
Energy Security and solidarity must be a key element of the Energy Union. We can build on the European Energy Security Strategy presented by the outgoing Commission in May 2014, notably by further diversifying energy sources and routes of energy imports, full use of the internal market, and promotion of integrated systems across borders as well as better energy efficiency. In the immediate future, the major priority will be to ensure security of supply for the next three to twelve months and in particular the coming winter, in the event of shortages of gas from Russia and Ukraine. We must ensure that there is a short-term action plan in case of interruption of supplies, especially to those Member States most at risk. This is crucial with regard to solidarity and mutual responsibility of the EU and its Member States which are hallmarks of European integration. Medium-term measures will need to include a review of the Gas Security of Supply Regulation.
A necessary condition for creating the Energy Union, but also one of its fundamental elements is greater cooperation and solidarity between Member States. We must assess how best to address the need to unite our negotiating power vis-à-vis third countries. Some have called for common gas purchasing to reduce the huge price differences faced by individual Member States. The options with a view to strengthening Europe's bargaining position must be assessed. At the same time, our competition and internal market rules as well as trade law must be fully respected. We shall also need to intensify diplomacy in the different energy fora more generally to create greater coherence with major energy partners and promote rule-based energy governance through the IEA, the G7, the G20 and the Energy Community. As Vice-President for Energy Union, I would seek a very close cooperation with High Representative/Vice President Ms Mogherini, and my colleagues in charge of Neighbourhood and Development policies.
The 2030 Climate and Energy Policy Framework will be another key element of the Energy Union. This is an issue of climate policy but also of energy security, competitiveness and growth. We must decarbonise the economy in line with the long-term goal set out in the EU's 2050 Roadmap. This will involve reducing greenhouse gas emissions as well as increasing the share of renewable energy resources and reducing energy consumption. A strengthened EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) – through the introduction of the Market Stability Reserve – will ensure that these targets can be achieved at least cost.
We must improve energy efficiency. President-elect Juncker has been very clear about the importance which he attached to this. We will have to come forward with fresh ideas on energy efficiency, not only to reduce energy consumption as part of our climate policy, but also as part of energy security, as driver for innovation and as important part of the package for jobs, growth and investment. Buildings represent 40% of final EU energy consumption. Modernising the existing and ageing building stock offers huge potential to reduce energy consumption and the energy costs for households. Of course, we must design the right conditions to make it happen, including easier access to finance and technical services. Transport is responsible for 32% of final energy consumption and can make a huge contribution to climate and energy policy. The deployment of the alternative fuels' infrastructure or more efficient transport systems and transport management, e.g., offer huge potential.
By producing more renewable energy in Europe, we will contribute towards decarbonisation and at the same time reduce energy dependence on fossil fuels from third countries. We will come forward with proposals on renewable energy as part of the package of measures to implement the 2030 climate and energy framework. These will inter alia set out the conditions for State aid after 2020, for using EU funding to implement renewable energy projects and for stimulating research and development. At the same time, we must not ignore the concerns that have been raised over the sustainability of some elements of the renewable energy mix – biofuels for transport and biomass for power generation. Europe is a global leader in renewables and has created many new jobs in the area through new technologies and innovation. The EU should be the world number one in renewable energies.
The work already undertaken and still to come on the 2030 climate and energy framework will re-affirm the EU leadership for the crucial climate change negotiations in the run-up to Paris next year and do our utmost to make it a success.
Another priority of the Energy Union must be the completion of the internal market for energy during the next mandate. This concerns first of all the full implementation of the existing legislation. Increasing competition should help drive down costs for citizens and businesses, improve competitiveness and boost jobs and growth. In this regard, we have to be very attentive to the needs of vulnerable customers and take into account these social concerns. But we also have to take the internal energy market further. We need to take a fresh look, in particular to bring about more regional cooperation. This will involve developing an energy grid capable of managing and distributing energy from renewable sources, optimising utilisation of the transmission infrastructure and bringing about a situation where households become active participants in the grid on both the supply and demand side and where prices for consumers are driven by market forces that take into account all externalities.
As Vice-President for Energy Union, I will do my utmost to support Vice-President Katainen and contribute to the 300bn euro jobs, growth and investment package announced by President-elect Juncker. This will be one of the first major initiatives of the new College. Energy and climate policy can make an important contribution to this package. The Commission will do everything in its power to help Member States overcome the critical gaps in energy infrastructure by facilitating the early implementation of the Projects of Common Interest listed in the Energy Security Strategy. Energy infrastructure needs to be modernised and extended to allow energy to flow freely within the EU and to eliminate energy islands. Securing the necessary financing by governments, industry and households will be a major challenge. EU funds are tightly constrained; therefore innovative financial mechanisms are urgently needed to stimulate and leverage public and private investments in infrastructure such as energy networks, and renewable energies as well as to incentivise investment, notably by private households in energy efficiency.
2. Quality and transparency of legislative proposals
How will you personally ensure the good quality of legislative proposals, full transparency of lobbying activities (directed at you and your services), and consistent and balanced consultation of all stakeholders taking also into account the need to carry out thorough impact assessments?
From my current portfolio, but also from my previous responsibilities in a national administration, I know how crucial the quality of EU legislation is for those who have to implement or apply it. I am convinced that the Commission has already a set of very good instruments at its disposal for evidence-based policy making. Public consultations of stakeholders, close contact with the European Parliament, other institutions and the Member States, openness to listen to all views and preparatory external studies are important elements in this regard. In addition, the Impact Assessment of Commission proposals has significantly improved and makes an important contribution to better quality EU regulation.
All these tools are available, and we must continue to strengthen and use them. As Vice-President, I would ensure that results are thoroughly analysed and that all sides have been heard in the preparation of legislation. This is always important for legislation, but in particular when we speak about an area as sensitive, diverse and complex as the development of a resilient Energy Union with a forward-looking climate policy. I am also convinced that cooperation of services and commissioners across portfolios will help us to improve the quality of EU legislation and its communication.
But of course, this does not only apply to new legislation, but also to existing legislation. We must also evaluate the performance of existing pieces of legislation and identify needs and opportunities to refocus their scope, reduce regulatory burden or simplify them. I am really looking forward to working with Mr. Timmermans in this regard with whom I have already had the pleasure to work in my current capacity.
In my current term as Vice-President responsible for inter-institutional relations and administration, I have been also in charge of the Commission’s transparency initiative. In this context, I am deeply convinced of the importance of transparency. I am therefore committed to fully implement the wide-ranging provisions of the Framework Agreement on relations between the European Parliament and the Commission regarding transparency and the flow of information between the two institutions. Moreover, I remain fully committed to the broader efforts of the Commission, to which I have contributed in my current mandate, towards promoting further transparency towards the general public and ensuring the widest possible consultation as part of the policy-making process. I negotiated with the European Parliament the Inter-institutional Agreement on the joint Transparency Register of the European Parliament and the Commission in 2010/11 and its review in 2013/14, and I fully support President-elect Juncker's call for enhanced transparency in relation to contacts with stakeholders and lobbyists, as expressed in his political guidelines, and notably his intention to propose a mandatory register covering all three institutions. I commit to making public all the contacts and meetings I hold with professional organisations or self-employed individuals on any matter relating to EU policy making and implementation, and I will make sure that my staff respect the ethical rules for Commission staff when dealing with lobbyists and all other stakeholders.
3. Coordination and cooperation
As Vice-President responsible for Energy Union, how will you manage coordination with the Commissioners in your team and with the other Vice-Presidents whose policy areas have an impact on, or are affected by, your policy area? How will you ensure enhanced cooperation with relevant parliamentary Committees?
Energy Union touches upon many policy areas: Energy, Climate Action Transport, Internal Market; Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs; Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries; Regional Policy; Agriculture and Rural Development as well as Research, Science and Innovation. We will have to mobilise a wide range of legislative, policy and financial instruments across many essential sectors of our economy .This will involve coordination with several Commissioners and fellow Vice-Presidents, will require working together instead of working in parallel, and avoiding or, where this should be the case, overcoming silo mentalities. I also will strongly support Vice-President Katainen and his team preparing the jobs, growth and investment package which shall be presented within the first three months of the next College. Investment in energy - be it in networks, renewable energies or energy efficiency - will make a substantial contribution in this regard.
Successful coordination and cooperation will create synergies and allow us to make progress in many regards like the deployment of smart IT technologies in transit and distribution networks; active consumer participation in the market; the potential of innovative technologies through research; intelligent taxation policy that makes polluters pay; tackling the impacts of food vs. fuel production in the agricultural sector as well as this sector's role in mitigating climate change whilst maintaining food production for a growing world population; fair competition rules to ensure a level playing field; cohesion policy that supports energy and climate goals, and reaching out towards the rest of the world on global energy and climate issues.
It is quite clear therefore that a successful implementation of my tasks will require several College members and their services to work actively together and being part of the same team. This will be key to deliver this major strategic project, and I am convinced that my experience and good working relationships with all parts of the Commission in the current mandate will help me to find the right ways to achieve this.
Having been in charge of inter-institutional relations over the last years, I negotiated the current Framework Agreement with the European Parliament on behalf of the Commission. I will therefore remain fully committed to ensuring a constructive political dialogue with the European Parliament and its committees based on openness, transparency, mutual trust, regular reporting and exchange of information, in order for the European Parliament to exercise its democratic control effectively. I fully share the intention of President-elect Juncker to reinforce the special relationship between the Commission and the European Parliament and its committees, in full respect of the Framework Agreement.
This applies, in particular, to establishing and maintaining intensive and close relations with the two portfolio-related Committees (ITRE and ENVI), where I would like to continue my practice of being available to attend all Committee meetings if I am asked to, of maintaining a regular and direct flow of information with the Chair of the parliamentary committees, of making myself available for bilateral meetings and for direct communication with all Committee members, as well as providing prompt and clear information and following-up on the views expressed during these meetings.
4. Scrutiny and international negotiations
What steps will you take to facilitate scrutiny by the relevant parliamentary Committees of legislative and non-legislative procedures (including preparation of delegated and implementing acts) and monitoring (follow-up) of their implementation? How do you intend to ensure that the relevant parliamentary Committees are kept appropriately informed in relation to any international agreements in your policy area, bearing in mind the experience gained in connection with the TTIP negotiations? How do you intend to ensure a coherent EU position in the upcoming international climate summits?
In the current mandate where I was i.a. in charge of the implementation of many institutional aspects of the Lisbon Treaty, I spent a lot of time on dealing with delegated and implementing acts. I am more than aware of the different inter-institutional views and controversies over the last years. This is an important issue for all institutions. It is clear that solutions must be treaty-compliant and ensure more ownership and transparency. Based on my experience, I am convinced that they need to be taken forward at a horizontal inter-institutional level as they touch on all portfolios and are of an inter-institutional nature. My colleague, Mr. Timmermans, will have an important role in this regard. With regard to the areas which fall in my remit, I will, of course, ensure that the Commission respects its commitments in line with the Common Understanding on delegated acts and the Framework agreement with the Parliament which I negotiated on behalf of the Commission, for example the commitment to carry out appropriate and transparent consultations at expert level in the preparation of delegated acts or to ensure that the Parliament and the Member States receive all relevant information. This includes naturally full respect of the provisions in the Framework Agreement in relation to the participation of Parliament's experts in expert groups meetings. For implementing acts a clear and comprehensive legal framework is in place with Regulation (EU)182/2011 and transparency is ensured via the Comitology Register.
With regard to implementation of EU legislation, reporting obligations under the relevant legislation must be respected and, where necessary, the Commission should respond to requests for information even beyond these obligations and report to Members of the European Parliament in the context of our regular dialogue. The implementation and enforcement of the EU acquis is crucial in order to make EU policies a reality on the ground and deploy their benefits.
I am happy to regularly update you on progress made in international negotiations in my areas of competence, of course in close cooperation with my fellow Commissioners involved in external relations, when invited before the ITRE or ENVI Committee or on other appropriate occasions. An open dialogue with the Committees, to hear their views – be it on international issues or other issues - and to draw on the achievements of their international contacts has been important for me already in my current mandate. It goes without saying that the Framework Agreement is the basis for our cooperation.
In international negotiations, the EU is the strongest and most effective when it is united, speaks with one voice and cannot be weakened by its international partners using divisions between the Member States. This is particularly true for climate and energy policy. It will be therefore one of my most important tasks to ensure coherent external positions between the EU and its Member States, and across climate and energy fields in view of the very significant synergies.
In the energy field, we have some examples of international agreements with the EU as a party. I think that we should have more of them in the future. This is key if we want the EU to speak with one voice in order to secure our energy supplies and promote a sustainable transition of our energy systems, but also to export our technologies and standards. I will of course fully comply with the relevant Treaty provisions, as well as with the Framework Agreement in this regard as well.
In international climate negotiations, it is by acting as a Union that the EU secured the breakthrough decision in Durban to conclude a new global agreement applicable to all in 2015. The EU and its Member States have acquired plenty of experience negotiating "mixed" agreements, including on climate change and other multilateral environmental agreements, and coordination within the EU is operational and transparent. I believe it is essential to ensure that each Member State feels ownership of the 2015 Agreement before it is adopted and signed. Only this way, we can ensure that all Member States will ratify this legally-binding agreement (enabling entry into force well before 2020) and effectively implement what we committed ourselves to do.
One strong European voice on climate also requires a strong support from the Parliament and close cooperation between our institutions. The ratification and implementation of a binding new global climate agreement will require the consent of the Parliament. Together with the Commissioner for energy and climate action, I will keep the Parliament very closely informed of the progress of the negotiations. Before and after the Lima and Paris meetings, I will be happy to discuss with Parliament the preparations and the results. I also want to continue the tradition of welcoming a Parliament delegation to important negotiations and providing it with daily updates.
Finally, in the nuclear field, the Euratom Community is party to all major international Conventions concluded under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency and has entered into several nuclear cooperation agreements with third countries. I am aware that a practice was agreed with the European Parliament, and I will continue to keep the relevant parliamentary committees informed of all international agreements negotiated on the basis of the Euratom Treaty accordingly.