Thursday, 14 February 2008

UK surrenders decisions over global energy policy to EU common energy policy

The new Article 176A in the Lisbon Treaty relates to the European Union’s massive push toward a harmonised common energy policy. Such a move is anti-competitive in the global marketplace of energy resources and does nothing to serve in the interests of further liberalisation of the energy market. The UK needs a truly global energy policy, not one determined and sanctioned by the EU.

The EC treaty has not previously established an EU competency on energy. However, the EU has been shaping the energy sector through its competencies with regards to the internal market, competition policy and the environment. The Union has been using its powers in other areas as the internal market and the environment to regulate energy policy issues. The 2007 Spring European Council adopted the EU Energy Action Plan for the period 2007-2009 which comprehends several priority actions concerning energy efficiency, use of renewable energies, completion of the EU’s internal market for gas and electricity. The European Council has also stressed “the need to enhance security of supply for the EU as well as for each Member State.” It has called for the “development of a common approach to external energy policy.” All of this has rested upon the presumption that the Lisbon Treaty – or the provisions which should have come into force under the original EU Constitution – would enable Member States to enact those laws.

The Lisbon Treaty introduces a new legal basis, allowing the Union to establish measures relating to energy policy. The insertion in the Lisbon Treaty specifically on energy is a huge step forward towards the common energy policy. Energy is one of the Union’s supposed “shared competences” with the Member States. The Member States will only be allowed to adopt legislation if the Union has not exercised its competence already. In brief, national governments would only be able to legislate on policy areas on which the EU has decided not to.

The Union gains the competency to direct the objectives of energy policy. Article 176 A (1) expressly states that energy policy should be carried out on the spurious grounds of a “spirit of solidarity” between Member States. The Union policy on energy aims to “ensure the functioning of the energy market, ensure security of energy supply, promote energy efficiency and energy saving and the development of new and renewable forms of energy and to promote the interconnection of energy networks.” The Lisbon Treaty allows the Union to direct the objectives for energy policy.

It is clear that Lisbon will mean that the UK would be required to supply energy to (or share energy with) another Member State in the case of a crisis. Under Article 176A (2) measures on energy shall be adopted through the “ordinary legislative procedure” (co-decision) with the Council acting by a QMV, after consultation of the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions. Energy is an issue of vital national interest and the UK will not be allow to veto damaging EU laws in this area. The Union will harmonise the functioning of the energy market. The Energy policy also includes guaranteeing “security of energy supply.” The reference to solidarity is strengthened by an amendment to Article 100 stating that “… the Council, on a proposal from the Commission, may decide, in a spirit of solidarity between Member States, upon the measures appropriate to the economic situation, in particular if severe difficulties arise in the supply of certain products, notably in the area of energy." The Council will act by QMV. This was a concession to Poland which wanted guarantees that it would receive help from other Member States if their energy supplies were cut off. It is not clear what the spirit of solidarity will entail for the UK, but the UK would be required to supply energy to another Member State in the case of a crisis.

Moreover, the EU will decide how energy is produced and will promote the interconnection of energy networks. Article 176 A (2) states that such measures “should not affect the right of a member state to determine the conditions for exploiting its energy resources, its choice between different energy sources and the general structure of its energy supply, without prejudice to Article 175 (2) (c )”. This article states that decisions “significantly affecting a member state’s choice between different energy sources and the general structure of its energy supply” are to be adopted by unanimity. This is unacceptable for the UK to accept these conditions – Parliament may be refused the right to act on any decision to implement either nuclear energy solutions and even worse, dispute the sovereignty of the UK’s vast coal reserves. Even if the UK were allowed to maintain its position (which would be against the terms of this provision), it will be heavily regulated by the European Union before it could ever go ahead. Such provisions in the Treaty must be blocked, as an energy policy must be properly legislated for at Westminster.

Under the terms of the Lisbon Treaty, the basic control of national energy policy is actively being transferred from Member States to the EU. The Lisbon Treaty will have a huge impact on the ability for Britain to determine its own competitive energy policy. This will prevent it of being able to guarantee flexibility to US contracts and interests in the UK, as it will for any other Member State. This will lead to huge instability in (rather than guaranteeing) the security of supply and also insecurities in the foreign policies of both the EU and the US in terms of their cooperation and agreements with oil-rich Middle Eastern countries.

In the interests of the United Kingdom, the Government must not accept those provisions on energy, their practical implications nor the right to legislate over those matters. The Government is already in urgent need – as one analyst of UK coal policy has said – of supporting privately owned industry whose retention is in the nation’s security and economic interest, supporting the implementation of less draconian environmental planning rules for sites of any proposed new mines (deep or opencast), embracing the rhetoric and policy of clean coal technology, and supporting new clean coal stations. It also has intentions, as it has made clear, to develop a new basis for nuclear power stations. All of this, then, appears to be greatly jeopardised by the fact that the Government has signed the Lisbon Treaty – built on a completely flawed anti-market European energy model which will deliver nothing but unaffordable price hikes for the voters of this country. They will not be thankful, especially knowing that the Government had been warned of this disaster before signing the Treaty.

1 comment:

Cita said...

Your article is inherintly flawed. You don't seem to understand basic English vocabulary. The word unanimity means effectively the UK has a veto. So you can't be forced.

Thus your argument re: Article 172 (2)(c) does not make sense. See the wording below which I cut and paste from your article.

"Article 175 (2) (c )”. This article states that decisions “significantly affecting a member state’s choice between different energy sources and the general structure of its energy supply” are to be adopted by unanimity."