Arctic in the European Commission Communication on the External Energy Policy

On 8 September Günther Oettinger, the European Commissioner for Energy, presented a new communication on international cooperation with external energy suppliers. Prompted by several bilateral gas negotiations between Eastern member states and Russia last year the document calls for information exchange mechanisms and transparency between the member states and the Commission. The communication comes at particularly critical time as a decision on Southern Gas Corridor picks up a momentum.More importantly, it is for the first time when Commission policy-makers in their strategic briefings on security of energy supply make an explicit reference to the Arctic. As it is stated in the communication, the EU imports 60% of gas and 80% of oil and a demand for energy within the EU as well as globally will increase over coming decades. Against this background, the Arctic region holds a significant potential not only to boost EU’s energy supply but also to contribute to its diversification, mentioned in the communication.

The EU builds up its stand-alone Arctic policy with the Commission publishing its first ever communication on the Arctic in 2008. From the beginning of the drafting process it was clear that the problem of horizontal coherence between various cross-cutting policy domains would be a challenging task. “Arctic considerations should be integrated into wider EU policies and negotiations”, says the 2008 communication. The reality, however, shows that the Arctic energy potential is frequently overshadowed in the EU’s strategic documents, as it was omitted, for example, in the Energy Strategy 2020 released in November last year. A reason for this might lie at sensitivities linked to the region, especially when it comes to the environmental protection, admits the head of Oettinger’s cabinet Michael Koehler. Introducing the new communication at Carnegie Europe Mr Koehler, however, assumes that the situation may change soon. Clearly, if Europe wants the Arctic to play a significant role in its energy security strategy, it should aim at harmonizing and coordinating emerging Arctic strategy and common energy policy.

Iulian Romanyshyn                                                                                                                            Research Associate



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