Schulz: “Energy union is a historic project” 

Martin Schulz during the minute of silence for the victims of the terrorism attack in Tunisia at the beginning of the European summit © European Union 2015  

Martin Schulz welcomed plans for an energy union calling it a “historic project on a par only with the Coal and Steel Community” in a speech at the start of the Council summit on 19 March. The EP President also called for more energy efficiency and diversification of energy suppliers: “Depending on just a few suppliers makes us vulnerable to divide-and-rule tactics and threats of blocking energy supply routes.”

Schulz stressed that affordable and accessible energy is vital, and also noted that the cheapest and cleanest energy is the one not consumed in the first place. The energy union could also help to create jobs and economic growth, while also assisting the fight against climate change.

The EP president called on the heads of state and government present to tackle the dramatic youth unemployment in Greece: “It is simply not fair that young people pay with their life chances for a crisis they have not caused.” He also urged them to re-build trust by refraining from agitation and said that we were all victims of the financial crisis: “Some are paying by handing over their taxes to fund guarantees for other countries’ debts, others are paying by being forced to accept welfare cuts.”

On the subject of economic coordination between member states, Schulz expressed the Parliament’s support for European Commission plans to improve the European Semester, including by involving the national parliaments more. “Only if national parliaments are truly involved and have a real say, will they commit themselves to making the European Semester a success.”

Turning to Ukraine, Schulz urged member states to stick with the sanctions, which have proved to be a useful tool to get Russia back to the negotiation table and warned against member states embarking on unilateral actions: “We should certainly continue our twin track approach: maintaining the critical pressure through the sanctions regime on Russia while at the same time enhancing support for Ukraine.“

The president also drew attention to the volatile situation in Libya: “The emerging political vacuum opens the doors to jihadist groups and criminal networks.”