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“Fourth, Europe should make full use of the fossil fuels available, including coal and shale gas. In the EU’s eastern states, Poland among them, coal is synonymous with energy security. No nation should be forced to extract minerals but none should be prevented from doing so – as long as it is done in a sustainable way. We need to fight for a cleaner planet but we must have safe access to energy resources and jobs to finance it.”
“Fifth, we should reach out to our partners outside Europe. The global gas market is a recent creation. In the years of the Coal and Steel Community, gas could not be transported by ship; today, thanks to technological progress, we have the tools necessary to create a single European market. Signing agreements with emerging suppliers could transform the situation on the European energy market. One possibility is the US, where shale production has taken off in recent years. Another is Australia, a rising star of liquefied natural gas exports.”
Tusk ends his piece with the statement that “The seed of the EU was planted by a simple vision: common control over – and a common stake in – steel production and coal mining. It is time to strengthen the community in the field of energy. Now that new technologies allow it, and old challenges demand it, we can hardly afford not to.”
Let’s start with Tusk’s first and most important point, the idea that we should counter Russia’s dominance with a Super-Monopoly based in Brussels which would take care of all of the EU’s gas business. Where has Mr Tusk been for the past 15 years? Is he not aware that the EU has been countering the “dominance” of Russia and other suppliers by attempting to create a liberalised gas (energy) market?
Is he not aware that, in Western Europe anyway, where competition and markets are taken seriously, energy trading and “distribution” is engaged in by private businesses, which have certain legal protections? His suggestion that we should break up “bilateral agreements” and “strip” them of “any secret and market-distorting clauses” flies in the face of the rule of law that I believe the EU is supposed to stand for – not some kind of “solidarity” to be decided on and doled out by politicians.
“Solidarity” is a solidly one-way street in Mr Tusk’s world
Who does Mr Tusk suggest anyway would run his “Energy Union”? Mr Oettinger? Bureaucrats in Brussels would “ensure” our gas supply from now on, set the prices, decide which member state gets how much, where the gas should be bought and at what price? Fortunately, most policymakers in Brussels are far too wise to be even tempted by such a far-fetched notion.
However, Mr Tusk’s “Energy Union” only goes so far. When it comes to coal and shale gas, he states that “No nation should be forced to extract minerals but none should be prevented from doing so”. In other words, Poland has coal and will keep using it, no matter what the rest of the EU wants. “Solidarity” is a solidly one-way street in Mr Tusk’s world. I must practise solidarity towards him, but he will not let himself be bothered by my concerns.
Many of Mr Tusk’s other “recommendations” are simply standard EU policy and practice. “No nation should be forced to extract minerals but none should be prevented from doing so” – that right is laid down in the EU treaty. “The EU should support the building of adequate energy infrastructure” – the EU has been doing this for years, with some success. We “should reach out to our partners outside of Europe”, “signing agreements with emerging suppliers” – that’s what has been going on for some time, Mr Tusk – but not controlled by some kind of bureaucratic monstrosity in Brussels that you seem to envision.
Note, incidentally, that Poland is not very dependent on imported (Russian) gas at all – gas supplies just 13% of Poland’s energy mix, of which 60% comes from Russia. Mr Tusk’s proposal, therefore, does not solve any problem – it merely tries to seize an opportunity presented by the sad developments in Ukraine. He apparently sees a chance in the Ukraine crisis to increase his powers. To “fight” Russia by adopting the mirror image of the Russian system – which would then be controlled by European politicians and bureaucrats.
I think the 20th Century has shown us what “common control” over resources and technologies really entails. Certainly the Polish people have experienced this kind of economic system first-hand. The idea of the EU, in my view anyway, is not based on common control but on economic freedom. And that includes the energy business.