The EU must improve its energy infrastructure between neighbouring Member States

The January plenary session of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) hosted a debate on energy infrastructure planning, pointing out that transnational electricity and gas grids are essential in connecting the Union and must be strengthened through targeted investment.

Cross-border energy flows are key to supplying electricity and gas to the different EU Member States. This means energy infrastructure must be upgraded through interconnectors between neighbouring countries to increase the Union's sustainable energy capacity.

The EESC's opinion requested by the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the EU, adopted at the Committee's plenary on 18 January 2024, delivers a clear message on the issue.

The EU should pay particular attention to grid developments, and substantial investment must be made to stimulate the European economy and create high-quality jobs which are respectful of the environment.

We at the EESC believe that in order to achieve the green transition and strategic energy autonomy, it is fundamental to make a structural change to our energy system, said EESC president, Oliver Röpke, during the debate held in conjunction with the adoption of the opinion.

The last two years have been characterised by the energy crisis, affecting the livelihoods of European citizens and leading to a cost-of-living crisis. Now is the time to truly tackle these issues which make up the very fabric of the EU energy system – starting with our energy grids, he added.

The Minister of Energy of Belgium, Tinne Van der Straeten, stressed that the clean energy transition, born out of climate necessity, was now an economic and security imperative, and that interconnection created a more flexible system that could balance geographic variations in wind and solar generation.

Europe's ambitions of renewable energy currently exceed its plans in terms of infrastructure, so we need these trans-European infrastructures fast. And they need to be cost-efficient, secure, sustainable and flexible, she said.

This is why the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the EU has sought the EESC's input on cross‑border energy infrastructure planning. I am grateful for the EESC's particularly valuable contribution, which will help the debate within the Council.

But who will bear the costs of this new project?

Thomas Kattnig, rapporteur for the opinion, highlighted the importance of finding a new and better balance between public and private entities in the electricity market, saying that the necessary investment should come from a mix between the public and private sector.

On behalf of the Civil Society Organisations' Group, the president of the EESC's Section for Transport, Energy, Infrastructure and the Information Society (TEN), Baiba Miltoviča, underlined that infrastructure for transporting and distributing energy could not be treated like a standard commodity, but should be classified as a service of general interest for both the economy and the population.

EESC member Maria Nikolopoulou, representing the EESC's Workers Group, warned about the importance of mobilising the private sector to finance the new project, using the large profits of energy companies to avoid high costs falling on consumers.

For EESC member Alena Mastantuono, from the EESC's Employers Group, developing a well‑integrated energy network based on interoperability and innovation was not merely a necessity but a shared responsibility that demanded collective action.


The EU must improve its energy infrastructure between neighbouring Member States