Speech by Jeroslav Neverovič, Minister of Energy, at the European Parliament, Industry, Research and Energy Committee

09 July 2013, Last updated at, 09:04 EEST
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Jaroslav Neverovic | author: European Parliament

Thank you, Madam Chair,
Distinguished Members,
It is a great honour for me to outline the programme of the Lithuanian Presidency before you here in the European Parliament.  Lithuania is the first of the Baltic countries to take over the Presidency for the upcoming half of the year. This not only a great honour but also a great responsibility. And I welcome this early opportunity to engage with you on the important issues that are preoccupying your Committee – the issues that really matter to Europe’s citizens.

As we all are aware, the Parliament is at the centre of Europe’s democratic process and that the Presidency’s close cooperation with the European Parliament, and specifically on the energy dossiers with the ITRE Committee, is of utmost importance.

The Lithuanian Presidency will therefore make every effort to continue this successful partnership and to remain open and transparent with a firm focus on results. I hope that together we can build on the excellent work under the Irish Presidency to deliver the challenging goals contained in our own Presidency Programme.

The European Union has taken far-reaching decisions over the past years that have helped to manage the economic crisis.   However, today we still face the urgent challenge of how to generate more growth and more jobs, jobs for young people in particular. 

The priorities of the Lithuanian Presidency reflect these challenges, as well as the vision of an open and globally responsible Europe.   Our Presidency priorities fall under the three pillars of a Credible, Growing and Open Europe.

By credible we mean the ability to ensure financial stability and sound public finances.   We need growth that results in real jobs for the people of Europe, growth that enhances European competitiveness.   Our other priority – an Open Europe – aims to strengthen the EU as a global model of openness and security.

Our main initiatives of the energy agenda contribute to those three priorities – of a credible, growing and open Europe.
Let me briefly present the principal energy dossiers on the table during the Lithuanian Presidency.

Completion of the EU internal energy market by 2014 is our top priority. We are committed to this goal because of the positive economic and security of supply effects that completion of the internal energy market will have.

The target is also important for the Union's jobs and growth agenda, for the achievement of the climate and energy goals for 2020 – integration of renewables, more energy efficiency through demand-side management – as well as for security of supply and competitiveness.

We welcome the report on the internal energy market prepared by Prof. Jerzy Buzek, extensively discussed by your Committee and to be voted on at the Plenary session in September.   Our work will build on this, on the Commission’s Communication “Making the Internal Energy Market work” and its Action plan, and on the Council Conclusions adopted at the Energy Council on 7 June.

These Conclusions take into account the guidelines on Energy adopted by the European Council on 22 May this year, which inter alia reaffirmed the commitment to complete the EU internal energy market in 2014 and to put an end to the isolation of Member States from the EU networks by 2015. They also envisage that a first Union-wide list of Projects of Common Interest should be adopted this autumn.

On that basis, it is now time to focus on implementation if we actually intend to meet the 2014 and 2015 deadlines.
The Presidency will report at the December Energy Council on completion of the EU internal energy market. This will provide an opportunity to take stock of progress made and to reflect on the steps required to meet these goals.
Strengthening the external dimension of energy policy is the second pillar of the Lithuanian Presidency’s priorities in the energy area.

As internal and external markets are increasingly interlinked, we need stable and transparent global energy markets to ensure energy security.  We must continue to enhance Member States’ cooperation as regards the external dimension of the EU energy policy and in our relations with external suppliers of energy resources.

Only by working together and in solidarity can we empower the Union to speak with one voice vis-à-vis external partners – strengthening our negotiating position, and ensuring a level playing field for all EU and non-EU companies.
A Report on implementation of the Commission communication on security of energy supply and international cooperation was foreseen in the Council Conclusions of 2011 and specifically called by the European Council almost two months ago.

Here I would like to note the valuable work in Ms Edit Herczog’s report on Engaging in energy policy cooperation with partners beyond our borders: a strategic approach to a secure, sustainable and competitive energy supply, adopted in June last year.

Given the many significant developments which have occurred over the last two years in the field of external energy relations, the Lithuanian Presidency will with the help of the Commission review and update the orientations set out in the 2011 Council Conclusions on external energy relations with a view to improving the consistency, credibility and effectiveness of EU action. This review should be endorsed at the December Energy Council.

On the draft Directive on Indirect Land Use Change, we are pleased by the progress made under the Irish Presidency. I firmly believe this should serve as a solid foundation for starting discussions with you in the European Parliament.
Intensive consultations within the Council throughout the past semester only serves to bolster the view that indirect land-use change from the production of biofuels is a serious issue that needs addressing.

At the same time, these consultations have also shown that, whatever the solution proposed, it must contribute to maintaining a stable regulatory and investment environment.

The Commission's progress report on renewable energy of April this year shows that Member States are doing quite well overall in achieving their interim targets.   But it also points to the fact that the challenge continues as the trajectory gets steeper towards the end.

The Energy and Environment Councils in June took stock of discussions and options on the ILUC proposal explored so far, leaving us with orientations for future work.

Time is of the essence for our joint discussions. My impression is that the three Institutions share similar appreciation of the need for ILUC mitigation on the one hand, while maintaining clear investment perspectives and the achievability of the EU renewables targets on the other.

In this respect, I would like to congratulate your Committee, and in particular your rapporteur, Mr Alejo Vidal-Quadras, on so successfully steering delivery of the Committee’s opinion on the ILUC proposal.

Building on this work, we will spare no effort in bringing this file to a conclusion. The Lithuanian Presidency is keen to reach agreement with the Parliament on a common objective so as to finalise this dossier.

A 2030 framework for climate and energy policies is about developing a strategy which goes beyond our 2020 targets. It is based on the 2050 Roadmaps and considers how best to use energy and climate policy to arrive at a competitive, sustainable and secure economy and energy system.

Taking the long view is a distinctive characteristic of Energy policy, be it because of the long life of its infrastructure or because of the lock-in effects that result from this infrastructure.

At the same time, investors need predictability in the regulatory framework that applies to their decisions: the EU already has a range of targets set for 2020 as well as climate-related targets that are necessary if it is to become a competitive, low carbon economy by 2050. We need to bridge the gap and to look at where we need to be by 2030.
In doing so, and while being aware that the consultation process launched by the Commission ended only one week ago, it seems to me that several aspects will have to be addressed in any future energy and climate framework:

TARGETS – should binding climate and energy targets be set for 2030? If so, should it be for both renewable energy and energy efficiency, given that legally binding instruments are in place and due for review well before 2020?

POLICY INSTRUMENTS – what are the appropriate policy instruments to meet the potential new targets?  How can Research and Innovation best support the 2030 framework?

COMPETITIVENESS AND SECURITY OF SUPPLY – security of supply is an on-going concern and the EU cannot develop its energy policy in isolation: the Lithuanian Presidency has made it a priority to strengthen the external dimension of EU energy policy. It is also clear, especially as we try to relaunch growth, that we cannot ignore the competitiveness imperative. So we shall take into account our partners’ commitments regarding climate mitigation.

EFFORT SHARING – how can a fair distribution of effort be ensured among Member States? How should we best assess the different investment capacities of industry sectors and consumer groups?

We would welcome the view of the European Parliament on these aspects.

The Commission has concluded public consultations on its Green Paper and is now preparing impact assessment evaluations for each Member State. The Lithuanian Presidency will explore the possibility of organising a presentation of the results of the public consultation regarding the 2030 framework for climate and energy policies.

This topic will be high on the EU’s agenda during the coming months, and close cooperation with the European Parliament will be critical if we are to achieve success.

We also hope that the Draft Regulation on Notification of investment projects in energy infrastructure can be finalised during our Presidency. This requires a change in the legal base. We appeal for your cooperation on this, and in particular for the assistance of your rapporteur Ms Adina-Ioana Valean.

In its conclusions on renewable energy last December the Council stressed that the expected rise in the use of biomass for energy-related purposes in the coming years brings up the need to consider the sustainability dimensions of the use of sensitive biomass.

The Commission's last biomass sustainability report, presented in accordance with the Renewable Energy Directive, provided a number of recommendations for Member States. These took account of the need to avoid the emergence of a variety of potentially incompatible schemes which could represent barriers to trade and growth in the sector.

We are awaiting the Commission's promised proposal for sustainability requirements for solid and gaseous biomass in electricity, heating and cooling. We plan to take this up in the Council as soon as it is presented.   Whether the Commission will produce a legislative proposal is still not clear.

While we'll obviously have to see the proposal before commenting in detail, we hope it will be such as to facilitate the achievement of objectives for renewables rather than adding uncertainty to the regulatory framework.

The Energy Council should look at the proposal at its meeting in December. But we would expect that both our Institutions would like to take time during this semester to examine the proposal.

The Communication on energy technology and innovation was discussed at the June Energy Council in a policy debate which agreed orientations largely supporting the approach set out by the Commission, in particular the development of an Action Plan and Integrated Roadmap.

In sufficient time the Commission can deliver its analysis of the components and drivers of energy prices and costs, as called for in last May’s European Council conclusions on competitiveness. The Lithuanian Presidency will be ready to facilitate a policy debate at the December Energy Council. This could then feed into the European Council discussions on competitiveness in 2014.

On nuclear issues, I would like to mention the revision of 2009 Directive on Nuclear Safety, which will be one of the most important dossiers in the nuclear field.   We will put every effort into facilitating constructive discussions in the Council, while noting the diverging views of Member States.

The safety of nuclear energy is vital for all Europeans. We fully acknowledge the importance of achieving proper operating conditions for nuclear installations. We have to make all the preventive actions to protect workers and the general public from the dangers arising from ionizing radiation.

Preliminary work will start in the Council on the draft proposal tabled by the Commission a month ago, which we welcome. We also look forward to the opinion of the European Parliament on this issue.

Madam Chair, Honourable Members,

Before I conclude, let me remind you of our main Presidency events in the remainder of this year:

  • An Informal Energy Council will be held in Vilnius on 19 and 20 September;
  • A High Level Conference on Energy Infrastructure (with a focus on implementation of the first Union-wide PCI list and on building an Integrated European Energy Network) is set for  4-5 November in Vilnius;
  • And the Energy Council will take place on 12 December in Brussels.

I am also looking forward to welcoming you in Vilnius for the ITRE Committee visit on 15-17 July.

One last point. We make no apology for the challenging agenda which we have set for ourselves during the Lithuanian Presidency. Our citizens expect and deserve nothing less. I believe we should, and will, achieve much if we cooperate closely and work together effectively.

The experience and knowledge of your Committee is of great value in this effort. So we look forward to working with you and your colleagues in the Parliament as we advance our shared objectives in the energy field.

Thank you very much and now I look forward to take your questions.

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