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An EU country facing an emergency gas shortage will be able to alert another member state of the impending supply crisis and trigger cross-border assistance to remedy it, under new cooperation rules informally agreed by Parliament and Council negotiators Wednesday night.

“This is the second piece of legislation that shapes the Energy Union, and a crucial one. It will make us more secure and resilient to external disruptions and to the abuse of energy supply as a political weapon. It gives EU member states the ability to help each other in times of an emergency but also, more importantly, enables them to act jointly to prevent any supply crises”, said rapporteur Jerzy Buzek (EPP, PL).

“The main objective of the Parliament was to ensure that our citizens are never left without gas. This is reflected in the compromise which we have just reached. Through the solidarity mechanism, member states are obliged to help each other when there is a danger to the supply of gas to the most sensitive consumers - private households, hospitals, social services” , he added.

Regional cooperation and crisis level

The draft agreement establishes four “risk groups” of member states to serve as a basis for obligatory “risk associated cooperation”, for joint risk assessment and joint establishment of preventive and emergency measures. These replace the seven regional cooperation groups listed in the initial legislative proposal.

There will be three energy supply crisis levels that member states can declare by informing the European Commission and the competent authorities in their risk groups and in directly connected member states: early warning, alert, and emergency.

The draft compromise recognizes the role of energy efficiency as a tool to prevent supply crises by reducing gas demand.

Solidarity mechanism

According to the draft text, the solidarity mechanism will be activated when a member state indicates that cross-border intervention is necessary to tackle a severe crisis. This can happen only if there is a security or health risk for the so-called “solidarity protected consumers”, e.g. a household, a district heating installation or an essential social service.

Supplying gas to the requesting member state will then become a priority for the helping member states, which will be identified within the same “risk group”. Help from another member state can be activated only as last resort. The requesting member state would have to fairly compensate the country that provided supply.

Transparency of contracts

Energy crises and harm to supply security could be prevented, says the draft agreement, if member states require natural gas companies to provide information needed to assess the overall gas supply situation and/or its impact on security of supply, including contractual information, other than price information.

The draft compromise gives the Commission the right to request access to any gas supply contracts important for security of supply. The Commission will also be able to request notification of details of other commercial agreements that are relevant for the execution of the gas supply contract, including details of agreements related to gas infrastructure.

Next steps

The informal agreement needs to be formally endorsed by the Council and the Parliament before it becomes law.