In presenting the ownership unbundling of network activities and distribution as the "ideal" solution, the Commission continues to support a liberal model that has given ample proof of its limits, in particular in the United Kingdom, the cradle of energy liberalisation.
The European energy model must be reformed to respond to the dual challenge of investment and of controlling energy consumption. That requires public authorities to undertake the determined pursuit of an industrial policy that combines the planning of investment, research and development, worker training and regulation of energy prices. "Clearly, what is needed is more cooperation between players in the sector, not more free market or more competition," observed ETUC General Secretary John Monks.
For the ETUC, a border tax adjustment system would be well placed in such an industrial policy and should be subject to an urgent impact assessment. It is very regrettable that the Commission gave up that proposal at the request of the Trade Commissioner, even though it was one of the recommendations of the High-level Group on Competitiveness, Energy and the Environment. "The Commission's position does not reassure us with regard to the prospects for electricity-intensive industries in Europe and their workforce, in the face of carbon constraint that is bound to grow stronger and competition from developing countries outside Kyoto," continued John Monks.
The ETUC stresses the necessity, referred to by the Commission, of speaking with a single voice in the international arena. This is increasingly important because it will determine our prospects for energy supply security. Russia's recent attitude to gas distribution confirms our concerns.
The European Union needs to ensure its security of supply, collaborate with the developed as well as the developing countries, and establish effective solidarity mechanisms to promote the concept of the public good with regard to energy.
The ETUC is more positive about the proposals on climate policy. It welcomes in particular the proposal for an independent target for reduction of the EU's emissions by 2020, even though the ETUC had earlier called for a more ambitious target, in the order of 25%. The Commission's proposals fall short, however, with regard to the transport and domestic sectors, and could well fail to meet the target for 2020.
It is time for the climate change challenge to mobilise society as a whole. "From this point of view, the Commission has not shown a lot of imagination. Last October, the ETUC asked for climate change and energy be the focus of a permanent dialogue platform with the European social partners and NGOs. In our opinion, that proposal would make it possible to undertake more ambitious reforms, involving all the social actors and contributing to the development of accompanying measures. We regret that our proposal has fallen on deaf ears," added John Monks.