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       EU Policies 19/01/2010
 
New EU Commissioners questioned by the European Parliament.

Günther Oettinger, Germany to become the EU Energy Commissioner, Michel Barnier, France, responsible for Internal Market, Connie Hedegaard from Denmark takes up the newly created hat of Climate Commissioner, Antonio Tajani Italian Commissioner-designate for Industry and Entrepreneurship.

 

The Commissioners designate have been questioned by the EP in Brussels last week. Apart from many new faces also new portfolios appear (Climate Change).

 

Günter Oettinger who has been proposed to lead the Energy DG made a rather good impression, with substantive answers to the big energy questions Europe faces, from pipeline politics to transmission network ownership rules to nuclear power.

 

Michel Barnier, former EU regions commissioner, gave a passable performance, especially when he was questioned on financial regulation.

 

Connie Hedegaard who had been chairing the Copenhagen talks last December gave the expected good impression and warned Europe about losing the lead on green energy.

 

During the three-hour hearing on 18 January, Mr Tajani outlined his plans for a new industrial policy, which should be focused on small and medium enterprises (SMEs), together with promoting innovation hand in hand with sustainable development. The Commissioner designate advocated the idea of the "green economy in a marriage of convenience with industrial policy to fight climate change". He was also keen on innovation, standardisation as a way to cut costs, and horizontal coordination in European efforts to prevent the economic crisis evolving into a social one.

 

A “ranking” of the performances of the Commissioners designate has been published by the Financial Times.

 

 

Detailed overview of the hearing of Günther Oettinger, Commissioner-designate for Energy, on 14 January 2010:

 

Questions and answers of Günther Oettinger at the EP Industry and Environment Committee touched upon the security of energy supply, energy efficiency, the role of nuclear power, energy poverty topics as well as on his own suitability for the post.

 

"Over the next five years I want to contribute, with you, towards a Europeanisation of our energy policy", said Mr Oettinger. "We need a comprehensive paradigm shift in energy policy", added the candidate Commissioner, who saw the "decarbonisation of the energy supplies" of the EU and greater energy security as priorities for his term of office.

 

Regarding renewable and nuclear energy, the Commissioner-delegate highlighted the idea that in the long term a figure of over 20 % for renewable energy would be needed. Furthermore, he added that the Desertec wind and solar energy project in North Africa would not represent an “exploitation of Africa” but “the start of a new partnership, a win-win situation”.

Referring to nuclear energy, he has "respect for national decision-making powers" and he said that he sees himself more like a moderator than an ambassador for the nuclear power. He believes that the EU’s role lie in the areas of atomic energy research, nuclear safety, and the disposal of radioactive waste.

 

Concerning energy efficiency, Mr. Oettinger replied to the MEPs’ questions on how to achieve the energy efficiency target of 20% by 2020, that “guidelines that give long-term planning security are not a disadvantage for industry but an advantage in future markets” and he intends to intervene strongly in the areas of electricity generation, industrial production and buildings.

 

Asked about the measures to improve energy security and solidarity, Oettinger said that “Our goal must be to bring the raw material, under fair conditions and with planning security, into the European market and then to make it available to every national market and industrial purchaser, but on the same terms".

 

He added that it is important to learn from the others giving the Nord Stream project as an example. He also showed his disapproval on the “insular solutions” through bilateral agreements. More than that, he insisted on the fact that the Baltic States must be fully integrated into the European electricity and gas network, mentioning that the development of the Southern gas Corridor provided an opportunity to open up new sources of gas in Azerbaijan.

 

Regarding the biomass production as part of the diversification of energy sources, Mr. Oettinger presented this as an opportunity for farmers adding nevertheless that the issue should be taken forward in a “sensitive and differentiated” way by submitting a report on land use change.

 

With view to the issue of energy poverty, the Commissioner-designate underlined that the “energy use must not be socially divisive” and he encouraged the idea according to which energy price rises must remain “moderate and affordable”.

 

Questioned about his suitability for the Commission position and lacking enforcement of EU policy in Baden-Württemberg/ Germany where Oettinger was Minister President, he replied that the EU Directive on money laundering had only been transposed at national level in August 2008 and the Baden-Württemberg was the Bundesland that had taken the biggest efforts in implementing it so far.

 

The close ties to the CEOs of E.ON and RWE were also imputed to Mr. Oettinger in an allusion to the implementation of EU single market law such as the third energy market package on the unbundling of energy companies. In addition to this, concerns regarding “certain private interests” were also expressed in the hearing. But the candidate denied all the shares in energy companies like EWF, EnBW, E.ON, RWE or Vattenfall saying that that he is a Commissioner proposed by Germany but who has European obligations.

 

 
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