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Procedure : 2007/2089(INI)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A6-0249/2007

Texts tabled :

A6-0249/2007

Debates :

PV 09/07/2007 - 19
CRE 09/07/2007 - 19

Votes :

PV 10/07/2007 - 8.38
CRE 10/07/2007 - 8.38
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :

P6_TA(2007)0326

Debates
Monday, 9 July 2007 - Strasbourg OJ edition

19. Internal gas and electricity market (debate)
PV
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  President. The next item is the report (A6-0249/2007), by Mr Vidal-Quadras, on behalf of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, on prospects for the internal gas and electricity market (2007/2089(INI).

 
  
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  Alejo Vidal-Quadras (PPE-DE), rapporteur. (ES) Mr President, on 10 January, the Commission presented what is known as the energy package, in which it made an overall analysis of the European Union’s energy situation, including the contribution of renewable energy sources, the sustainable use of conventional energy sources and the creation of a competitive and open internal market in electricity and gas.

The report that this Parliament will approve tomorrow responds to the main issues raised by the Commission with regard to the latter question, the internal market. The text approved in the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, agreed amongst all of the political groups, reflects the fact that there is a clear consensus on the majority of issues and we hope that Commissioner Piebalgs will find our contributions useful when it comes to adopting the third liberalisation package in September.

Moving on to the content of the report, Parliament believes that we need more coordination at European level with regard to the regulatory framework. The current system – 27 Member States, 27 different regulations – is a serious obstacle to the internal market, particularly in terms of cross-border trade and the promotion of interconnections. Hence the proposal to create a European-scale body to deal with these aspects.

We are also pleased with the Council's firm commitment to achieve 10% interconnections between Member States, which is of particular significance to the outermost States.

At national level it is advocated that national regulators should be entirely independent of the governments and industry and that their competences should be enhanced so they can ensure that the law is obeyed. Regulators must ensure that the markets are transparent and open to everybody and that there are no abuses on the part of the existing companies.

We also agree that regulated tariffs need to be gradually eliminated. These kinds of tariffs exist in several Member States, where they are used to prevent new companies from entering the market. In some cases they are so low that they do not reflect the true costs, and that sends a false message to consumers.

We are in a period in which a radical change in consumer habits is needed, and in order to optimise energy resources, citizens need to be fully aware of their true value.

Furthermore, the report introduces – if you will allow me to use the term – a social chapter, pointing out to the Member States that completing a competitive energy market must not under any circumstances mean the weakening of consumers' rights and that our obligations towards society’s vulnerable sectors must remain in force.

Finally, the most burning issue in the report: the ownership unbundling of the production and distribution of electricity. The majority of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy believe that this ownership unbundling provides us with an appropriate measure for achieving greater transparency, for guaranteeing investments and for ensuring access to the market for new companies.

Those are the fundamental points of the report, Mr President, and it only remains for me to thank the Directorates-General for Translation and Publications and the Presidency of this Parliament for their invaluable help. Without it, it would not have been possible to complete this report in just four months, in time to ensure our effective presence within the legislative process. I would also like to stress the excellent cooperation of the shadow rapporteurs and the political groups. It has been a real pleasure to negotiate this report with them and let us hope that tomorrow’s vote will provide a happy conclusion to all of this work.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MRS KRATSA-TSAGAROPOULOU
Vice-President

 
  
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  Andris Piebalgs, Member of the Commission. Madam President, I think I should begin where Vice-President Vidal-Quadras ended, by first of all thanking him for all his work and his dedication. I should also like to thank the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy for the active debate and those who made it possible for this report to be adopted within such a short time limit. This is really an achievement and one that is very much appreciated.

The report, if adopted – and I hope it will be adopted tomorrow – will pave the way for a Commission legislative proposal which we are aiming to have ready by September. It is really necessary to have the report and that we spend the remaining months of July and August preparing a good legislative proposal that will really reflect on all the points raised by the Parliament.

I would like to begin by saying why we need this proposal. I think it is very important never to lose sight of the reason why the Commission really believes in this proposal. From a formal point of view, there is the argument that two reports by the Commission and the final Report on the Sector Inquiry on Energy clearly indicated that there is a need for new legal measures at European level to achieve the basic goals of security of supply and competitiveness.

However, these are not the only reasons. There has been a substantial change in the energy world which justifies this proposal. Firstly, we have historically high energy prices. The price of oil today at USD 70 per barrel is definitely very high. We are hearing less from those who usually argue that oil prices will come down. If oil prices are high, it means that gas prices are also high and it has an influence on the price of coal – basically, all energy costs are higher. We can predict that high prices will prevail due to greater consumption and with increased global demand due to the growing population.

The second challenge, that of climate change, is much more clearly pronounced. We know that the energy sector is a major contributor of greenhouse gases, so we need to strengthen the instruments to fight against climate change. Last but not least, there is also the challenge of EU enlargement. With new Member States joining the European Union, we have a much greater need for stronger solidarity mechanisms to be in place in the energy sector in the European Union. Many of these countries depend on just one supplier and are extremely vulnerable if supplies are disrupted.

The energy policy objectives – security of supply, sustainability and competitiveness – very much depend on the situation on the EU common market. On 1 July 2007, there was a major change in perception because now each consumer legally has a chance to choose his supplier. This should bring a real message for investment and should bring better quality. But the message was downplayed because, in many Member States, steps have been taken only half-heartedly and not consistently enough.

It has been said that world commodity prices are rising because of liberalisation, but the reason has never been liberalisation. The reason is that liberalisation has never happened, which means that, whatever steps are taken, we must provide guarantees that each citizen and each company in the European Union has the opportunity and the right to choose a supplier. If the price or the service is not satisfactory, then it must be changed without fearing this process. I believe that it is absolutely necessary to take stronger measures that bring more competition and more Europe, because Europe’s strength is in its scale and scope.

The main measures were well reflected by the rapporteur. I would just like to reflect on a couple of them. Unbundling is definitely the key. We are very glad of the wording on the unbundling of electricity.

With respect to gas, some additional arguments should be put forward because, basically, the gas situation is no different. As regards gas as well, if unbundling is not done properly, supplies will not reach consumers and, as a result, the market will starve from the lack of gas.

Transparency is important. With regard to regulation, we should look at two levels. Firstly, we should look at the level of cross-border market energy flows and, secondly, see that national regulators should have powers, but also obligations that new investments are made. They are not responsible merely for overseeing the market. They should actually be responsible for those investments being made. Cooperation between transmission system operators should be strengthened, as should interconnection policies.

I would emphasise also that there have been a couple of other good, important points on energy efficiency, smart grids, biogas and balance with long-term contracts. I would defend one point that perhaps was avoided in the report, or said very cautiously. On regional cooperation, developments of the pentalateral market definitely demonstrate that are many opportunities also working on the regional market. At the same time, I agree with Parliament that we should always be cautious not to split the internal market but actually to use this initiative to promote the whole market.

In conclusion, I would again like to thank all involved. Each of the points made in the report will be taken into due account in the Commission proposal. We should not forget that energy is a particular commodity, like earth, water and air. At the same time, I could say that it is a scarcer commodity at this stage, until we have learnt how to get more energy from the sun, the wind or from biomass.

 
  
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  Sophia in 't Veld (ALDE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs. (NL) Madam President, first of all, I should like to congratulate the rapporteur. The report approved by the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs in fact corresponds entirely to your viewpoint, and this is also, by and large, the viewpoint of the Commission and the one I had outlined as rapporteur.

It is clear that, in the 21st century, we need a real, fully fledged, internal energy market. This was once again made clear at the summit two weeks ago, and this means that we are looking to create actual competition. Protectionism is therefore fundamentally wrong. I very much welcome the fact that Mr Vidal-Quadras’s report states that there should be reciprocity – because, all too often, we see countries that want to protect their own national champions but still go shopping in other countries, which is, of course, unacceptable.

Needless to say, the interests of the citizens must be protected, because you are right in saying that energy is a specific good, but this should be done by public service obligations and the government facing up to its responsibility, rather than by protectionism. Protection? I say ‘yes’ to that. Market protection? No.

Finally, I am delighted with the fact that a long-standing wish of the Liberals has now been included explicitly in the report, namely that by creating an actual level playing field and by incorporating external environmental costs in the price, renewable sources of energy will now finally have a competitive edge over other energy sources, which is bound to benefit our environment.

 
  
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  Brigitte Douay (PSE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Regional Development. – (FR) Madam President, on behalf of the Committee on Regional Development, I should like to stress the fact that the completion of the internal energy market must be part of the objective of the economic, social and territorial cohesion of the European Union. It must therefore be aimed at a high level of public service and must guarantee the security of supply, as well as meet consumers’ needs in full. Indeed, total competition in such a specific market as the gas and electricity market is justifiable only if prices are lower, services more widespread and customer services more efficient.

I should therefore like to lay particular emphasis on the taking into account of the most vulnerable citizens and on the security of supply in underdeveloped regions, regions with natural handicaps and the outermost regions. Special attention must also be paid to border regions, which are the first to be able to benefit from the effects of the internal market.

Completing this market requires total transparency and comprehensive and undistorted information on the origin of energy, particularly when it is a question of renewable energy sources. In this respect, regional and local authorities must be supported by the European Union in their efforts to promote energy efficiency and energy savings, particularly in the transport and housing sectors.

I should like to conclude by thanking Mr Vidal-Quadras for having taken a number of our comments on board in his report.

 
  
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  Herbert Reul, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (DE) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, it is extremely difficult to find a better structure for the internal energy market. We certainly have plenty of problems, some because energy is in the hands of a state undertaking, some because it is in the hands of an oligopolist, and some because the state interferes and sets prices. That is why we need to give serious thought to how we can get more of a market here.

Some sections of this Parliament have problems with the proposals. With some of these proposals, ownership unbundling really is the only way to ensure there is some liberalisation on the internal market. The data do not necessarily support that. You only have to look at them. States and energy undertakings do not necessarily invest most in networks that are unbundled; the figures available show that states and undertakings are investing very heavily in interconnectors and in networks that are not unbundled.

We must ask ourselves whether we really need to distinguish between Member States where the energy undertakings are in state ownership and those where they are in private ownership. Why does unbundling apply only for systems that are in private ownership and not also for systems that are owned by the state?

How long will it take for this instrument of ownership unbundling to pass through the entire legislative process and be implemented? We want to push through changes as quickly as possible! Experience has taught us, however, that in all probability it will take many years before we have any effect at all, if we set this machinery in motion now.

Last, but not least, there is the question of who will actually buy these networks. Who will own them in future? The state, other undertakings – Gazprom, hedge funds – or how is it actually to work? Is that really what we want? I doubt that we have found the right way with this instrument. That is why I would like to suggest that we also offer the Member States more alternatives, such as ISO or RIO, that is regional cooperation. We must see how we can achieve what we have all set ourselves as our common objective with the most diverse of methods. We should, however, avoid concentrating on one objective as supposedly the only road to happiness.

 
  
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  Edit Herczog, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (HU) I congratulate the rapporteur, who together with the shadow rapporteurs has done a highly successful job in a very short time. I thank and congratulate him. In the draft report we have managed to work out an unusually large number of significant compromises.

On the question of ownership unbundling, we need to accept the decision of the democratic majority, and everyone at the meeting of the parliamentary committee voted in favour of unbundling ownership. At the same time, we are formulating political policy orientations, not establishing regulations. It is therefore expedient to leave open as many options as possible. Unbundling ownership seems the most effective solution, but it is not the only solution. It is precisely for this reason that the Socialist Group in the European Parliament will support the first proposed amendment, which extends the future impact study to the system operators’ ISO model as well.

On behalf of the Socialist Group I would like especially to welcome the new chapter concerning the social consequences of market liberalisation and concerning consumer protection. I ask the Commission fully to heed the proposals in the report, and to draw up as soon as possible, preferably this year, the Energy Consumers’ Charter. For today it is an incontestable fact that everyone needs energy, and precisely for this reason we place the consumer at the centre of our future energy policy. In practice, consumers are often unaware of when, under what circumstances and how they can assert their right to energy. In this regard they need information, assistance and in certain cases protection as well.

I would draw attention to the fact that Parliament is preparing to adopt a very decisive, forward-looking position with regard to opening up and regulating the market. As codecisionmakers, we will continue in future to insist on the independence, the responsibilities and the collaboration of regulators, on making the market more transparent, and on realising the developments in question.

Finally, I wish to remind everyone: the goals of energy policy are Europe’s energy security, competitiveness and carbon dioxide reduction. Competition is simply a means to this end. Let us therefore not confuse the two things: we must only favour competition when and inasmuch as it truly serves energy security and competitiveness – for instance, with regard to long-term price agreements.

 
  
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  Anne Laperrouze, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – (FR) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to begin by congratulating Mr Vidal-Quadras on his work: on a thorny issue and in return for a large number of amendments, he has managed to ensure that the text to be adopted by Parliament lists the options that will enable us to steer the direction of the debates to come this autumn.

Through this report, the crucial role of the national regulators has been reaffirmed. Independence, convergence and increased harmonisation of their powers are crucial not only in terms of transparency, communication and responsibility, but also in terms of relations with the transport network managers. We must overcome the technical and regulatory disparities that are hindering cross-border trade and the interconnection thereof. In my view, the regulators should approve the necessary investments on the proposal of the network managers and ensure that such investment takes place. The desire of the European Commission to have national regulators cooperate more with each other is therefore along the right lines.

The Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe welcomes the fact that this House has highlighted the need for different approaches for the electricity sector and the gas sector. The gas sector needs specific solutions taking account of the differences between upstream and downstream markets. Thus, gas producers are for the most part located outside the European Union and do not abide by the same rules as those of the internal market. Ownership unbundling of the networks could make European gas companies more fragile.

With regard to regulated tariffs, we think it necessary for the Member States gradually to do away with their application, but to keep the option of last resort tariffs so as to protect the most vulnerable consumers.

I shall conclude with the point that has provoked debate: the issue of ownership unbundling. As far as the ALDE Group is concerned, the objective of having all operators treated in a transparent and non-discriminatory way by network managers is a crucial element of the proper functioning of the internal market. On this issue, my point of view differs from that of some of my colleagues, because I do not believe that this ownership unbundling is the key element that will enable the internal market to be completed. After it has been imposed – if this option proves to be the wrong one – the damage could harm European companies and, ultimately, the security of supply.

I feel that it is more important to establish a code of good conduct for network managers, to make the necessary investments and to increase the power of the regulators. We need both great European energy champions and competition for the market to work. What we need to do is to regulate price transparency and to prevent excessive pricing, because, as needs go, energy is a vital one for Europeans and for the European economy.

 
  
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  Eugenijus Maldeikis, on behalf of UEN Group. – (LT) First of all I would like to thank the rapporteur for his constructive and realistic position in preparing this report, and for truly having a thorough understanding of such a complex phenomenon as the liberalisation processes of the electricity and gas market in the European Union. I would like to mention and draw attention to something I consider very important: the liberalisation of the gas and electricity market cannot proceed in isolation from the formulation of foreign policy, because the dependence of the gas and electricity market on third countries and their businesses is continually increasing. We know very well the possible consequences, and therefore it is essential that there be a strong coordination of the stages and means of liberalisation with the creation of a foreign energy policy. I would also like to emphasise that this is not an unambiguous process – it is very complex. It is very important for us to clearly highlight the fact that 20 countries out of 27 have still not incorporated existing bills of law into national legislation, whereas the new steps we have yet to take in liberalising the market will have to be backed up by further supplementary means in order to implement what has previously been enacted.

 
  
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  Claude Turmes, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (DE) Madam President, we have created a European internal electricity and gas market that is suffering primarily from one thing: the E.ON, RWE and EDF oligopolies that are present on this market. In Germany and France we have the union of corporations and political elites that have failed to play fair from the outset, instead sealing off their markets and buying the other firms out: monopole in France, monopoly outside of France.

What can we do to get out of this situation and pass on to consumers the fundamentally positive effects of an internal market? We must strengthen the regulators, we must separate the transmission grids and gas networks from the electricity generators and gas undertakings, and we also need programmes like the Gas and Electricity Release Programmes, which allow the regulatory or competition authorities to sell electricity and gas to other competitors where the markets are too strongly dominated.

That is the line agreed by the great majority of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy. I hope that my colleagues will not give way at the last moment to the many mails from Mr Reul, which come directly from RWE headquarters. Only the introduction of a national regulator against the wishes of the German energy corporations brought falling prices in the German electricity grids. That was billions that had not previously found their way into consumers’ pockets!

 
  
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  Esko Seppänen, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. (FI) Madam President, Commissioner, ownership unbundling is a patented drug in the EU to cure market diseases caused by market viruses and bacteria. Our group has no great faith in market self-correcting mechanisms to cure these illnesses. We also need strong national and EU level regulators.

The biggest drawback as far as consumers are concerned is the pricing mechanism for electricity. In the stock markets all producers get the same price for electricity: it is determined in accordance with the highest production costs of all. The pricing mechanism is an automatic profit spinner for producers of cheap electricity.

If the Commission tries to harmonise the electricity markets, it will also be harmonising the price of electricity. Then the price of electricity will rise in countries where it is cheap. So some consumers will have to pay the electricity bills of others. That is quite wrong.

 
  
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  Jana Bobošíková (NI).(CS) (The beginning of speech was inaudible) cooperation between the transit system operators, that there needs to be greater investment in infrastructure. There are doubts, however, over the proposal on unbundling. The Commission sees this as a vital step that will prevent discrimination against network users. It will also, of course, enable the connection of new providers, and will lead to independent decision-making on investment as well as improved coordination between network operators. This liberal approach would be entirely valid if we were speaking about goods for general consumption. When it comes to strategic, location-specific, natural resources upon which we are completely dependent, however, the situation is completely different. Do we know how to prevent the domination of deregulated markets by companies connected to the main producing countries? Do we know how to prevent markets from being dominated by the Russian state-owned company Gazprom?

Ladies and gentlemen, over 40% of gas supplies in the Union currently come from Russia. The individual Member States that have signed bilateral agreements are exacerbating this dependence, and we have to acknowledge that the situation is getting worse by the day. Relations between Brussels and Russia are not exactly perfect at the moment. Nobody knows what would happen if Russia chose to exploit the Union’s dependency on its gas for political purposes. I believe it is vital to find the answer to that question before we start making fundamental changes to the way that the energy market is currently organised.

 
  
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  Gunnar Hökmark (PPE-DE). – Madam President, I wish to begin by congratulating the rapporteur on a report which has a strong message for a vital internal market for electricity and gas.

There are two main points that should be underlined. First, the importance of an efficient gas and electricity market is greater than ever if we are to fight climate change, if we are to secure the opportunities for renewable energies and if we are to take care of European competitiveness. This also applies to consumers. Second, we need an energy policy that can face the challenge of the risk of dependency on either big domestic producers or on foreign stakeholders that try to combine economic power with political pressures by controlling production as well as distribution. Those are two elements that we need to deal with if we are to have a strong common energy policy.

Those are the reasons why the European Union needs an energy market with fair and undistorted competition, with open markets, without economic patriotism, but rather characterised by liberté, égalité et fraternité. We need unbundling in order to ensure there is competition and new energy sources, and we need a common electric grid and gas networks across the whole of Europe in order to ensure that there is an efficient market and solidarity.

In these ways we can combine solidarity with efficiency, competition with cooperation and the efforts of fighting climate change with economic growth. That is why it is important to support the rapporteur and his report.

 
  
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  Reino Paasilinna (PSE). – (FI) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I am grateful for this clever report. There is no viable energy market in Europe, because most of the Member States flout the agreements. The victims of this are industry, competitiveness and the general public.

A sound internal market would facilitate access to markets for smaller companies, such as importers of renewable energy sources. A viable market would also ensure that there was sufficient investment. There would be greater reliability of service with regard to power plants and transfer networks. A viable internal market for the general public will mean fair prices, and it will be important for fuel poverty. It will also create security.

How is it possible that, while in one Member State of the Union they are struggling with consumption peak, in another there is unused capacity? Surely that is not a Union. The must be unbundling of energy production with regard to its distribution.

Many old players which dominate the network set discriminatory terms and conditions, for example, regarding new players connecting to power station networks and the use of network capacity. This will not change without European-wide regulation.

Transparency is crucial, especially if the markets are to be viable. At present transparency does not work in a lot of countries either. The big companies are playing each other’s game. We cannot survive in a situation in which some countries think they can take over new markets but at the same time jealously protect their own. Moreover, a good directive is not the answer either. We call for one voice in our dealings with Russia, but we do not even speak to one another with one voice in matters of energy. To achieve this, the Commission needs to monitor and penalise Member States who get round agreements unfairly.

 
  
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  Konrad Szymański (UEN). – (PL) Madam President, our relations with Russia regarding energy are governed by the principle of reciprocity. There is one major difficulty relating to the latter, namely that the Russians interpret this principle as involving the politics of force, and take no account of European market expectations.

Russia has recently forced several European energy concerns to leave its territory. At the same time, however, Gazprom is benefiting from the opening up of the European energy market. It has growing investments in as many as 16 of the Union’s 27 Member States. Gazprom even has access to private consumers in Germany, France and Italy, and we all know that those countries represent the lion’s share of the energy market.

There is a significant conclusion to be drawn from all this. Although liberalisation of the energy market is beneficial from the consumer’s point of view, it must be undertaken in such a way as to prevent Europe from becoming even more dependent on the Russian economic and political machine.

In my view, this represents a challenge for the Commission, competition protection policy and for employers. They must lay the foundations described in the Commission’s document and in Mr Vidal-Quadras’ excellent report, and also translate them into legal language.

 
  
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  Ján Hudacký (PPE-DE). – (SK) First of all, allow me to thank the rapporteur for a comprehensive and high-quality report.

I would like to highlight some aspects which might contribute to the speedy establishment of an effective single energy market in the European Union. I view positively the Commission’s efforts to achieve this goal through submitting, in a non-discriminatory and transparent manner, ever more rounded proposals for boosting investment in infrastructure and ensuring equitable access to networks for multiple market participants.

After numerous discussions with stakeholders both in Parliament and outside it, and in the light of experience from some Member States, I have come to believe that the ‘ownership emboldening’ of independent national operators is not the surest way of managing the attainment of these goals.

Admittedly, ownership unbundling in vertically integrated companies will ensure the formal independence of economic entities and will enable new players to access the energy networks. A question remains, however, as to whether new investors will be genuinely interested in a geographically limited nationally regulated market, especially in underdeveloped regions. One can therefore hardly assume with certainty that such a step will genuinely strengthen competition and bring sufficient pressure to bear on energy prices. By the same token, there will probably still be a need for national energy markets to be interconnected, since national interests are likely to prevail first.

For this reason I would like to recommend that the Commission take on board other proposals which are capable of addressing the situation in a more comprehensive way and which may prove more effective in accomplishing energy market liberalisation.

 
  
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  Hannes Swoboda (PSE). – (DE) Madam President, Commissioner, Mr Vidal-Quadras, I congratulate you on your attempt to produce a more or less balanced report, in which you have largely succeeded.

Paragraph 2 on the subject of unbundling is a central topic in the public debate. I can accept it as it is formulated here because it is probably the best solution, in theory at least. We should not think that it will solve every problem, however. There are many reasons why grids are not being expanded that have nothing to do with unbundling, but with difficult procedures, with civil rights movements and other things. Point 6 is also important in this connection, saying as it does that we must take care that non-EU state-controlled undertakings do not buy up energy infrastructures; we would be particularly unhappy about that if there were no reciprocity or interdependence.

I think the points about the regulator are particularly important. We need stronger national regulators cooperating at European level; we need a harmonised framework so that we can operate a common energy policy in Europe in this sector.

For all the emphasis on the need for market liberalisation, this must not be at the expense of the socially weak. Security of supply must continue to be guaranteed, especially for the socially weak who simply cannot keep pace with rising energy prices any more, much as they want to. That is the deciding factor: anyone who is unable to pay any more despite social assistance and support must nevertheless still be supplied with energy.

 
  
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  Silvia Ciornei (ALDE). – Ţin să încep prin a-mi exprima aprecierile pentru modul obiectiv în care domnul Vidal-Quadras a întocmit acest raport.

Aş dori să subliniez câteva lucruri: în primul rând consider că pentru a avea o piaţă internă a energiei competitivă, avem nevoie de introducerea unei separări depline a proprietăţii între distribuţia de energie şi producţia de energie. O astfel de măsură ar conduce, aşa cum s-a mai spus astăzi, la mai multă transparenţă, la stimularea investiţiilor în domeniul infrastructurii de distribuţie şi, cred eu, ar ajuta în final la generarea unui preţ accesibil al energiei pentru consumatori.

În sectorul gazelor naturale cred că prin măsurile ce le vom lua trebuie să încurajăm construirea de noi proiecte care să diversifice sursele de aprovizionare ale Uniunii Europene, cum ar fi de exemplu proiectul Nabucco. Sub nici o formă măsurile de liberalizare nu trebuie să descurajeze realizarea unor astfel de proiecte, pentru că diversificarea surselor de aprovizionare cu gaze naturale a Uniunii Europene reprezintă un element cheie pentru crearea unei pieţe interne de gaz.

Nu în ultimul rând aş dori să subliniez necesitatea păstrării suportului cetăţenilor pentru măsurile de liberalizare a pieţei şi, în acest sens, consider că Parlamentul European, Comisia Europeană şi chiar autorităţile publice din statele membre, trebuie să-şi intensifice împreună eforturile pentru a face cunoscute oportunităţile ce rezultă din liberalizarea completă a pieţei europene de electricitate şi gaz, şi în acelaşi timp, pentru a ne asigura că drepturile consumatorilor de energie, persoane fizice sau companii, sunt protejate.

Nu putem considera finalizat proiectul de liberalizare a pieţei de energie atâta timp cât nu reuşim să creăm o piaţă pe deplin transparentă şi eficientă, în care consumatorii să poată să-şi aleagă liberi şi în cunoştinţă de cauză cea mai avantajoasă ofertă de furnizare de energie.

 
  
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  András Gyürk (PPE-DE). (HU) Recognising Europe’s energy dependency, more and more people believe that there cannot be a strong Europe without a common energy policy. When we reflect on the basic pillars of a possible common energy policy for the future, it is worth appreciating the pillar that already exists today.

Mr Vidal-Quadras’s report is about this existing pillar, namely, the internal energy market. I agree with the statement in the report that extending the EU’s internal energy market, and creating effective solidarity mechanisms among the Member States, will serve at once to secure our supply and to increase economic efficiency. Instead of applying these principles, however, the internal market today is still much more characterised by the Hungarian saying ‘there are as many customs as there are houses’. That is to say, sadly there are numerous Member States who have not yet fully implemented the directives regarding the liberalisation of the energy market.

The opening up of the energy market in Hungary, for instance, will foreseeably take place with a six-month delay, and inasmuch it finally does take place, a new obstacle is erected to open competition: excessive market concentration. The long-term energy purchase agreements signed between the MVM Company Ltd. (Magyar Villamosművek) and the electrical energy producers cover some 80% of the Hungarian market. The European Commission presumes that there is illegal state aid behind these agreements, and is thus rightfully concerned about true competition.

If the liberalisation of the market is to be carried out under these terms, we can be sure that consumers will gain no benefit from it. Prices will not come down, nor will the level of service improve. If we do not wish liberalisation to fail, we must guarantee the fulfilment of its principles as well. For this reason, I hope that we will see the birth, as soon as possible, of the guarantees of a common energy policy in the interest of creating a strong Europe.

 
  
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  Eluned Morgan (PSE). – Madam President, I hope the Commission will heed the vote of the committee when preparing the revision of the directive and not kow-tow to Member States which protect companies which overcharge their consumers. They have a vested interest in maintaining a system where there is an inbuilt conflict of interests which stops competitors from having access to the same market. These are often the same companies which care more about giving profits to their shareholders than providing serious investments to ensure that the lights are kept on.

I urge you not even to offer the ISO model, which would require a magnificently complicated regulatory system which would have to be policed by an army of officials, but understand also that ownership unbundling needs rules. We need to ensure that we protect energy networks from hedge funds or private equity, which will not give the long-term investment commitment that is necessary, and let us stop third-country companies from buying either generation or energy networks if there is no reciprocal agreement with that country.

I urge you also to put right the false impression on ownership unbundling spun by the German Presidency following the last Energy Council meeting. The majority of Member States are in favour of full ownership unbundling, especially in electricity. Do not be bullied by the big boys and let democracy and the consumers speak.

 
  
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  Jorgo Chatzimarkakis (ALDE). – (DE) Madam President, Commissioner, Mr Vidal-Quadras, we are all agreed on the objective: we want to create a single European internal energy market. We want that in the interests of both consumers and undertakings. Where this did not work, where the market failed, we needed to show the yellow card, and in some cases even the red one. You have done that with your proposals, Commissioner, and the rapporteur has taken them up.

The aim is therefore clear. It cannot lie in the break-up of the undertakings in the internal market, however. That is why we must work towards greater market integration, more investment in interconnectors, non-discriminatory market access for competition. And that is where we have now had a reaction. I am glad, we are all unanimously glad about the proposal for the creation of regional markets that is now on the table. There are to be seven of them. These regional markets will be responsible for network access, system safety, provision of capacity, control energy, network expansion and congestion management. This will require EU legislation. We hope that you will approach these tasks with the same courage as you showed with the existing proposal.

 
  
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  Romana Jordan Cizelj (PPE-DE). – (SL) In the debate on the internal market for gas and electricity, the question of unbundling the transmission network from production is a key issue.

Of the proposed unbundling models, ownership unbundling has thus far proven to be the most effective. Yet this does not mean that we should not take a critical approach to it, in fact quite the contrary. I believe that there is a need to point out numerous factors to which we must be attentive in this process. May I highlight just some of them.

Firstly, I would emphasise that we must clearly define the competence of the supervisory authorities. Here we must be aware that ownership unbundling signifies integration of the EU internal market. However this integration requires the reinforcement of the existing supervisory authorities. These authorities must be developed and built up, whether we are talking about national regulators or new models such as ISO+. The competence and powers of national supervisory authorities in the EU must be more uniform, while at the same time we must make adequate provision for the supervision of cross-border activities.

I would also like to highlight the fact that in creating the internal market for gas and electricity and in the process of ownership unbundling we must take into account our high import dependence. If we are seeking to derive positive results from the internal market, we must face third countries with one voice. The process therefore requires the simultaneous formulation of a common European foreign policy, or at least a common European energy foreign policy. We must also observe the principle of reciprocity.

Finally, may I also highlight solidarity as one of the fundamental values of the European Union. We must shape the internal market in such a way that enables us, at the same time, to protect its most vulnerable users. This can be done in a neutral way, which will not threaten European competitiveness. I support wording to this effect in the report, and at the same time I congratulate the rapporteur for his excellent work.

 
  
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  Joan Calabuig Rull (PSE). – (ES) Madam President, we agree on the need for a genuine internal energy market that is transparent and open and that contributes to reducing the costs for citizens and companies.

The internal market must stimulate efficiency and investment, contribute to security of supply and allow access to the energy market, including for small companies.

Since 1990, priority has been given to the creation of the market, but that is not a sufficient response, as the reality in many States demonstrates. Almost all of the Member States have problems in this regard. What we need to do is to continue along the path that we have begun, that is to say, the creation of a common energy policy that offers everybody confidence and a clear framework for achieving the Commission’s proposed objectives in 2009.

Finally, in view of the importance of the social dimension of the energy policy, we must be pleased at the inclusion of measures to combat energy poverty. It should also be stressed that the Commission must be urged to present its proposed charter on consumer rights by the end of 2007.

I congratulate the rapporteur.

 
  
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  Šarūnas Birutis (ALDE). – (LT) I would like to thank Mr Vidal-Quadras for a truly good report. Nevertheless, I would like to draw attention to at least a couple of things. Firstly, I suggest we give more emphasis to the importance of priority energy links in the creation of an internal EU energy market. Until Lithuania and the other Baltic countries as well as Poland have an energy link with the rest of Western Europe, there can be no talk of a domestic market! Furthermore, the financing of four priority energy links has not been fully clarified yet. Therefore, I propose that it should be demanded that sufficient funds be guaranteed for the smooth implementation of this plan and that all additional possible avenues of financing be analysed, if that is required. Secondly, honourable colleagues, I propose that we emphasise that in creating a common European energy market we are obliged to be guided by economic logic and the principle of solidarity. The alternative links offered by Russia are based on political motives! Russia's plan to lay a gas pipeline to Germany across the floor of the Baltic Sea bypassing the Baltic countries and Poland is 30% more expensive than the ‘Amber Gas Pipeline’ project proposed by the Baltic countries and Poland, and significantly more dangerous. Implementation of the Russian plan would isolate the Baltic countries even more, and therefore I suggest that the 'Nord Stream' project be stricken from the list of projects of interest to Europe!

 
  
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  Jerzy Buzek (PPE-DE). – (PL) Madam President, I should like to congratulate Commissioner Piebalgs on yet another good proposal. This particular one aims to support the European common market in energy. Congratulations are also due to the rapporteur on his excellent report.

The issue of ownership unbundling has proved the most controversial, but I would like to make three observations concerning rather different problems. I do of course support unbundling very strongly indeed. My comments concern other matters, however.

Firstly, the single European market calls for strong physical links between national markets and even between regional ones. Distribution network operators must be encouraged to invest in cross-border connections. The European Union and the countries concerned must provide stronger support for such connections as they are a sine qua non for the common market and genuine competition.

Secondly, European integration should involve not only energy and CO2 emission rights, but also the market in green, red and white certificates. The development of these markets should aim at making them more European. Turning to the most important and fundamental issue of all, I must emphasise that the Union’s underlying problem at present concerns undertaking a strategic investment programme to redevelop old facilities and build new highly efficient ones.

The issue that arises is whether we wish to base this investment only on the simple principle of a gradual price increase across the board. That may prove unduly expensive for European SMEs and energy-intensive industries. Efficient investment regulation mechanisms should be sought, to create new opportunities. Investment certificates are one possibility.

Congratulations once again.

 
  
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  Teresa Riera Madurell (PSE). – (ES) Madam President, Commissioner, I too am convinced that, in order to progress towards the establishment of a competitive internal market in gas and electricity, Mr Vidal-Quadras’ report takes the right approach: to propose complete ownership unbundling, to protect consumers, to increase transparency, to strengthen bilateral cooperation and the independence of regulators and increase the level of interconnection between Member States.

In this regard, it is very important to speed up the assignment of coordinators for projects with execution difficulties. A better climate for investment in interconnection capacity requires a European distribution network for gas and electricity with medium- and long-term European planning, supervised by a possible council of regulators.

There is no question that we must make progress in this direction, but there is also no question that it is going to take time to achieve our final objective. I believe, however, that the greater our capacity not to use the difficulties that the different Member States come across for party political ends, the less time it will take.

We must all move together in the direction that we believe to be correct. That is our responsibility as Members of the European Parliament and it may also represent our success.

 
  
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  Jan Březina (PPE-DE). – Madam President, as the shadow rapporteur for the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, I would like to thank my colleague, Mr Vidal-Quadras, for his great work, as well as for this excellent opportunity to discuss some of the very important issues, such as ownership unbundling or the role of national regulation authorities.

I very much appreciate this initiative of the European Parliament, as it could also help the European Commission in further efforts to liberalise the internal gas and electricity market and as it assesses the measures already taken. Ownership unbundling, the most controversial issue, proved to be the milestone of this report. I would like to support this activity of the European Commission. However, as it is a somewhat controversial issue that needs to be further clarified and strengthened, I would like to call on the Commission to carry out further impact assessment studies to analyse means other than unbundling of increasing transparency and ensuring conditions for proper investment in infrastructure.

If the Commission decides in favour of unbundling, the implementation process must be prepared carefully in order to be as sensitive as possible to ownership rights. With regard to ownership unbundling, I would like to support amendments and proposals that soften the assertion that unbundling is the only and most efficient way to liberalise the internal energy market and which, therefore, consider other means as well.

With regard to the section entitled ‘Regulators’, I would like to emphasise the role of the national regulation authorities, which should be independent of governments and bear part of the responsibility in the process of the liberalisation of the energy market.

As a Member from a new Member State, I would also criticise some opinions of my colleagues tending to accuse only central and eastern European countries of interventionism in decisions taken by the national regulators.

 
  
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  Dorette Corbey (PSE). – (NL) Madam President, I am grateful to Mr Vidal-Quadras for his excellent report. Tomorrow, we will be voting on, inter alia, ownership unbundling of electricity grids and electricity production. It so happens that the Upper Chamber of the Dutch Parliament will be voting on this very subject tomorrow. The Dutch have decided to separate energy supply from network management. If this happens in the rest of Europe, this will be good news for the Dutch energy companies, who will no longer have to feel like little miss goody two-shoes.

This is also good news for the development of sustainable energy, because only by splitting ownership completely can we open up the energy market to new suppliers, something that is desperately needed. At the moment, there is too little network capacity to allow new suppliers to join the networks. The energy giants are reluctant to invest in expanding the capacity for the benefit of such new parties. Access to networks is often difficult due to a lack of transparency, which leads to enormous delays, for example in the wind energy sector. Splitting them up is the way forward.

 
  
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  Alexander Stubb (PPE-DE). – Madam President, the energy package the Commissioner has put forward deals with three issues: security of supply, competition and environmental sustainability. I will focus on only one part: competition. If I have one thesis today, it is that, even in the energy market, we need free and undistorted competition. For those who need a translation: concurrence libre et non forcée.

I have three points. On implementation and transposition, I hope that the Commission can be even tougher. There is a lot of unfair price competition out there and extremely unfair take-overs have been referred to many times in this House, in other words, some kind of a state monopoly taking over from free and private competition of a smaller prey. There are many barriers to entry, so keep up those infringement procedures. I am not going to mention any particular companies, but there is one, the first letter of which is ‘e’ and the last is ‘f’, that you could have a close look at.

Secondly, on unbundling, two options were outlined: one is ownership unbundling and the other is an independent system operator. Much like other speakers, I fully favour ownership unbundling: it is the only way we can go forward, because the current level is insufficient.

I shall finish by giving you one example, which is my third point. I live in Genval, just outside Brussels. A few months ago, I received a letter from the local community stating: ‘Wow, fantastic, now finally you can choose your energy supplier and this will lead to greater competition’ – as if they had done something about it! What they had basically done for decades was to try to protect the market and keep prices high. I am really glad that Mr Vidal-Quadras has put forward an ambitious report and the Commission is keeping a tough line on energy competition. Good luck!

 
  
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  Eija-Riitta Korhola (PPE-DE). – (FI) Madam President, as my esteemed colleague, Mr Vidal-Quadras, properly states in his report, there is no alternative to the liberalisation of the energy markets. A genuine internal energy market is an essential factor to achieve the three objectives of the European energy sector: competition, sustainable development, and security of supply.

Healthy competition in the market will cut costs to the public and business and encourage energy efficiency and investment. As Mr Paasilinna said just now, we need compliance with the rules and transparency. At the same time, it will also benefit other industries, and competitiveness throughout the entire economy will improve.

We need to realise in particular that the emissions trading scheme will only work properly in a competitive market. Energy policy also has to bear in mind climate goals and the striving for a world which has as few emissions as possible.

Long-term self-sufficiency in energy and security of supply must also be priorities, and these will also have a major role to play in a viable internal market. At the same time, however, we have to avoid a paradox, which can unfortunately be found in some situations.

On the one hand, an open market makes it possible for smaller companies, such as those which invest in renewable energy sources, to gain access to markets. On the other hand, we have to be careful that these are not given the sort of support which would impair and obscure the formation of genuine markets.

When electricity moves from one country to another, substantial and significantly different forms of aid cause distortions of the market. For example, feed-in tariffs as a support instrument cause something of a problem in this respect in places. A clear and predictable electricity market will depend on how certain we are of developing our competitiveness and we therefore have to avoid overlapping and contradictory policy instruments.

 
  
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  Monica Maria Iacob-Ridzi (PPE-DE). – Apreciez conţinutul raportului pe care îl dezbatem astăzi şi doresc să mulţumesc în mod deosebit raportorului pentru munca depusă.

Piaţa de energie este elementul cheie al politicii energetice europene. Aş dori în continuare să subliniez punctual câteva aspecte: în ceea ce priveşte piaţa de electricitate, consider că separarea proprietăţii sistemului de transport de activitatea de distribuţie şi cea de producţie este o măsură care va duce la creşterea competiţiei pe piaţă, la sporirea investiţiilor şi la un preţ mai bun pentru consumator. În România, sistemul de transport funcţionează deja independent şi rezultatele s-au dovedit a fi benefice. În plus, s-a efectuat listarea la bursă a companiei de transport de electricitate, fapt de natură să crească substanţial în funcţionarea acesteia.

În privinţa gazelor naturale consider că toate propunerile viitoare trebuie să încurajeze construcţia de proiecte care să diversifice sursele de aprovizionare şi rutele de transport, de exemplu proiectul Nabucco, care ar permite accesul Uniunii la resursele din zona Marii Caspice.

Din acest motiv, doresc să încurajez Comisia să iniţieze în septembrie două propuneri legislative, - una pentru electricitate şi una pentru gaz - două propuneri care să ţină cont de principiile comune de liberalizare, dar şi de specificitatea celor două domenii. Este clar că cea mai importantă consecinţă a liberalizării pieţelor gazului şi electricităţii este opţiunea consumatorului european de a alege între mai mulţi furnizori şi de a plăti un preţ corect şi competitiv care se va forma în urma concurenţei pe o piaţă liberă.

Deşi directiva liberalizării pieţelor celor două resurse a intrat în vigoare la 1 iulie, trebuie să promovăm şi o campanie adecvată de informare pentru ca cetăţenii să cunoască toate drepturile şi oportunităţile oferite de liberalizare. În acest sens doresc să salut adoptarea, vineri, de către Comisia Europeană a unor principii pentru o viitoare cartă a consumatorului de energie. Este un pas important pentru reechilibrarea raportului de forţe dintre consumatorii şi furnizorii de energie. Este esenţial însă ca aceste principii să devină obligatorii pentru statele membre. Nu trebuie să uităm niciun moment că liberalizarea pieţei se face pentru cetăţeni şi ei sunt cei care trebuie să beneficieze în primul rând de pe urma acestei liberalizări.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MR ONESTA
Vice-President

 
  
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  Paul Rübig (PPE-DE). – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner Piebalgs, Mr Vidal-Quadras, I would like to congratulate you on this report. The most important thing about this report is what consumers, that is the public, will gain from these new arrangements. Most of all, the public will want to know what a kilowatt-hour of hydroelectric power costs between 12 noon and 1 p.m. When is it supplied and at what price? We must have regard not only to the quantity of electricity but also to its quality. We have the right to decide how we want the energy we buy in future to be produced. Time will also have an important part to play, of course. Transparency of price formation should be the first commandment with this new form of regulation.

The second essential aspect is the distinction between the question of ownership and liberalisation. In theory, the form of ownership has nothing to do with liberalisation. They are two completely different things, and we must therefore concentrate on keeping them separate in future, too.

 
  
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  Andris Piebalgs, Member of the Commission. Mr President, I really regret that this fascinating debate is over, as I would be happy to discuss this issue more. However, it is very important not to forget the reason why the package was proposed. As I have said, it is for the benefit of the consumer. And we should not go into the unbundling issue too much without seeing why we would actually be proposing unbundling. The reason for this is that market liberalisation has never had a chance in the electricity and gas market. Fear of the unknown, inertia and a lack of national egoism in Europe are among the reasons for the late implementation of the necessary measures, postponing things until the next government or, hopefully, for the next generation. So what we are really talking about is liberalising the market.

I am one of the people that has lived in different systems. I also lived in the situation in which market forces were not known. I remember standing with my children in long queues for soap and sugar because the market economy was not there and a planned economy could never deliver on time.

In terms of electricity I never asked this question because I took it for granted that we would be cut off. Instead I would wait until the supply was re-established. What I mean is that I believe the market is the only thing which responds to external conditions and which makes investments at the least possible cost.

Unbundling is the instrument that guarantees that investments are being met and consumers are protected. I think this is a point of departure for the issues that have been debated most of the time today. Unbundling is the necessary precondition for achieving a competitive market but not the goal per se.

Otherwise I would just mention two additional items mentioned in the debate. Parliament is now considering the candidates for the Coordinators for Trans-European Energy Networks. I hope that they will approve the Commission’s choice. At this stage the Commission still needs to deliberate on it.

An Energy Consumer Charter has been launched for public consultation and at the end of September, when the public consultation ends, we could go for the final adoption of the Energy Consumer Charter.

Thank you very much for the debate. I would once again like to thank Mr Vidal-Quadras for an excellent, very balanced report, which rightly focuses on all the appropriate areas that we will be taking into account when we come forward with the legal package.

 
  
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  President. – The debate is closed.

The vote will take place tomorrow, 11 July 2007.

Written Statements (Rule 142)

 
  
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  Richard Seeber (PPE-DE), in writing. (DE) Mr President, we should all assume responsibility for global challenges such as climate change, our dependency on imports and rising energy consumption and strive for an integrated European energy policy. The creation of a single European internal energy market is without doubt one of the top priorities for the immediate future. The Commission’s efforts to make European energy policy more coherent with the third energy liberalisation package and a new energy strategy for Europe are therefore most welcome.

This does not, however, mean that ownership unbundling is absolutely essential for transmission systems. I believe ownership unbundling constitutes massive interference in existing ownership rights. I am convinced that it is no solution to the problems we face. We should call on the Commission to develop other alternatives, besides the ownership unbundling option, such as the Independent System Operators (ISO) model, for example, or its regional variant, the Regional Independent Operators (RIO) model.

The important thing, however, is that we choose the best way to a competitive, integrated European internal energy market.

 
Last updated: 20 September 2007Legal notice