EU Commission unveils new Energy Union
The new European Commission President has announced a major reorganisation of the EU's climate change and energy departments in a bid to reduce the energy dependency of several Member States.
Jean-Claude Juncker today (10 September) revealed the line-up of new European Commissioners nominated to be the European Union's most senior civil servants for the next five years.
His announcement began with details of the formation of a new 'Energy Union', which will be led by former Slovenian Prime Minister Alenka Bratušek. The President-elect also confirmed rumours that the formerly separate roles of Energy and Climate Action Commissioners will be combined and will now be led by Spain's former Environment Minister Miguel Arias Cañete.
"I want to reform and reorganise Europe's energy policy into a new European Energy Union," said Juncker. "We need to pool our resources, combine our infrastructures and unite our negotiating power vis-à-vis third countries. We need to diversify our energy sources, and reduce the high energy dependency of several of our Member States."
Five Vice-President positions leading teams of Commissioners have been created, including one with responsibility for 'better regulation', although it is unclear how these will work in practice.
Junker said the newly-formed Energy Union will make the EU more independent, strengthen the share of renewable energies and increase Europe's energy efficiency, which in turn will help create jobs and reduce costs. The Union will be tasked with setting a binding 30% objective for energy efficiency by 2030, as called for by Juncker in his speech before the European Parliament in July.
Reacting to the new Commission line-up, Friends of the Earth Europe director Magda Stoczkiewicz said: "The European Commission will have a critical role in dealing with the multiple crises Europe is facing over the next five years. Commissioners will be judged on their actions, and we can only hope they perform better than the outgoing Barroso II Commission that has let us down in many important environmental and social areas.
"While climate and energy are inextricably inter-related, there is a real danger that by merging these two departments climate concerns will be side-lined by energy issues. Given the enormity of the climate challenge, it is essential that the new set-up results in coherent, ambitious policy on both climate and energy.
"We hope that the merging of environment and fisheries will mean better protection for oceans and marine biodiversity which is desperately needed, but this will remain to be seen.
"The creation of a First Vice-President position in charge of 'better regulation' is highly alarming. If this signals a strengthened attack on so-called 'red-tape' - which has so far been pushed hardest by the UK - then it could put essential measures to protect people and the environment at risk. Health and safety, environmental protection, labour and consumer standards are not administrative burdens but essential rights of European citizens that must be protected."
The news quashes rumours that the Energy and Climate Change post would go to the UK's Lord Jonathan Hill, who has instead been appointed Commissioner for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union.
Parliamentary hearings for the new College of Commissioners are expected to commence on the week beginning Monday, 29 September.
Read Jean-Claude Juncker's letter to the new Vice-President for Energy Union, Alenka Bratušek, below.