What Models for European Energy Governance?

03/10/2014, Rome

If European governance is a much-voiced problem, echoed in every building of the Union's institutions, the energy sector is not much different. During these six months of the Italian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, Italian Deputy Ministry of Economic Development Claudio De Vincenti has remarked that nowadays, more than ever, "we are aware of the necessity of European policies to be coherent and consistent. In particular, the focus within the framework of the European common market should be on the fields of energy and the environment, and on developing tools to enable national industries to raise their competitiveness and make their practices more eco-friendly."

On 3 October 2014, Deputy Minister De Vincenti launched the round table "What Models for European Energy Governance?", organised by IAI in cooperation with Edison within the framework of the IAI-Edison project "The Future of the European Energy Policy: The Italian Contribution". After a welcoming speech by Marco Marghieri, VP of Edison, Nicolò Sartori, analyst at the IAI, presented the results of an IAI research study. Thereafter, Mario Benotti, counselor at the European Affairs department of the Italian Prime Minister's Office, Roberto Potì, president of the Europa Committee of AssoElettrica, Sebastiano Serra of the Ministry of the Environment, Leonardo Zannier, of the Energy General Directorate of the European Commission, and Jean-Arnold Villnois, former General Director of the Energy General Directorate of the European Commission took the floor. Finally, Prof. Valeria Termini, VP of the Council of European Energy Regulators, drew the conclusions.

During its Presidency of the EU Council, Italy has given priority to matters related to energy security as a way to enhance the internal market, and to analysis of European governance and its mechanisms. De Vincenti and Benotti observed that EU policies, above all in the field of the environment, have been limited until now to reaching a compromise among the various national policies without bringing any valuable asset, hence the necessity to build "a distinct supervised energy market" that has to be planned also in terms of "infrastructures and not only quotas."

Marghieri, Sartori and Zannier all remarked that "relevant changes in the mechanism of energy governance" should be aimed at creating a "union for energy." The Juncker commission will be counting on the work of the commissioner for the energy and climate, backed by the work of a vice-president. However, "we lack the national tools suitable for the implementation of the EU's environmental directives."

Serra stated that, until we engage with and hold responsible the world's ten biggest polluters, for 80% of the global emissions quota (among them, China and India), the European objective of reducing its members' emissions "will not have an effective outcome." A precise anti-emission policy may provide a solution to the long-lasting governance dilemma, but it has to be coherent with needs and infrastructural weaknesses at the national level.

Villnios express his criticism with a substantially constructive remark affirming that "at the international level, the European environmental policy remains hesitant," and stating that "before any discussion of governance," it may be useful "to recover a solidarity spirit among member states for efficient cooperation in the energy field."

The conclusions reached by Prof. Termini highlight the contradictions intrinsic in European governance. They represent two sides of the same coin because, on the one hand, centralized control by the Commission of national plans could lay it on the line of bureaucratization, losing sight of the rationality of national industrial policies and on the other, devolving the enforcement, the last step of the procedure, to the Member States.

The solution recommended by the Deputy President is a more flexible approach by the Commission, that has to be sensible and aware of industrial specificities and regional details. "For a long-term energy strategy," stated Termini, "it is necessary to consider energy a strategic industrial sector for the future of each state for the whole Union."

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