New Measures to Secure EU Gas Supplies
It’s no secret that the European Union depends heavily on outside sources for its gas needs, as Russia exists as the foremost supplier. Like any commodity that comes from just a few sources, the energy security risk is high for the 15 European Union countries totally dependent on foreign gas.
Incidents such as the disruption in supplies to the EU as a result of a pricing dispute between Russia and the Ukraine has brought the issue before the European parliament.
Last Spring, Latvian EEP members warned the audience of the Industry, Research and Energy Committee that Latvia questions whether it was prepared for another winter given that 100% of their gas comes from Russia. European efforts needed to be united to form a common policy and avoid what parliament rapporteur Alejo Vidal –Quadras describes as the “genuine nightmare” of the Russian gas cuts during the 2008-2009 winters which left thousands of homes without heat during the cold months.
At a session in Strasbourg on September 21st, 2010, a European Union bill was ratified that will guarantee member states energy security as well as European “gas solidarity.” The draft was aimed at securing the bloc’s energy policy against external supply disruptions and was approved by MEPs by 601 votes to 27.
The new legislation requires each member state to establish plans to deal with a gas disruption of 30 days by securing alternate gas supplies or by ensuring appropriate reserves in domestic storage.
The hope of MEP Konrad Szymanski is that the bill will end the policy of indifference towards the Russian “gas game” in Central and Eastern Europe.
The bill states that the European Commission is to intervene if one of the 27 member countries informs the group of a gas supply problem. If two countries declare problems then Brussels is forced to issue a state of alert. This new legislation will impose a new energy infrastructure throughout the European Union and permit internal trade of gas purchased from Gazprom, an action that goes against current deals with the Russian gas giant.
Vidal-Quadras says the bill provides "a real solution to a real problem." However, Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, a Polish member of parliament’s foreign affairs committee, said the new EU regulation only goes “two- thirds” of the way to securing energy security for the bloc. “The regulation omits the role of the high representative and only vaguely refers to the southern corridor or Nabucco, or cooperation with our [European Neighbourhood Policy] partners.”
EU member states will have four years to comply with the new regulations. ALDE energy spokesman Adina Valean says it was a "positive step towards reducing Europe's vulnerability...But we still need to continue diversifying energy routes and supply sources to facilitate competition, access and choice."