Common rules for the internal market in natural gas (amendment)

EESC opinion: Common rules for the internal market in natural gas (amendment)

Key points

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) welcomes and supports the intention behind the European Commission's proposal for an amendment of the Gas Market Directive (2009/73/EC) to fill a legal void left behind by the original Directive, namely that the common rules for the internal gas market also apply to the interconnectors of pipelines from and to third countries. The amendment is to improve market integration and security of gas supply. The EESC has – in the past – frequently emphasised the importance of clear, consistent and effective governance for the Energy Union. However, it should be noted that the Committee would like to raise awareness concerning the political sensitivities linked to this proposal and also takes issue with some of the substantive and procedural aspects of it. The political sensitivities are linked to the trade-off between the Member States' ability to pursue their own national interests in the context of energy supply and security on the one side, and the need for the application of clear and consistent regulatory principles to the Single Market on the other side. This trade-off is to be mitigated through the possibility granted to Member States for derogations from regulations. As a result of this, the EESC is concerned that the proposal may not create the legal certainty investors require. In view of the political sensitivities and potential legal challenges, the Committee regrets that the Commission has not undertaken a comprehensive impact assessment. It should also be noted that an important consequence of this proposal could be to activate serious consideration of firstly, the increasing dependence of the EU on Russian gas and the use of this energy source as a lever in foreign policy issues and secondly of the danger of locking-in commitment to a fossil fuel because of the need for pay-back on high-cost infrastructure.