Eurosceptics vote down EU’s energy security strategy, in the absence of consensus among pro-EU forces

The EU Parliament’s report on the EU Energy Security Strategy did not manage to muster a majority. The document was supposed to draft the Parliament’s response to the strategy that the Commission published[1]  in May 2014.

The resolution was rejected by 277 votes in favour, 315 against and 111 abstentions. In an unprecedented turn of events, the forces opposing greater EU integration obtained their first significant victory since being reinforced in the 2014 EU elections. This was possible due to fierce disagreements between the pro social and pro free market EU supporters.

Concretely, the strategy was voted down by an unusual majority made up of a combination of the small groups, i.e. conservatives, communists / radical left, the Greens/EFA, eurosceptics (EFDD group) and non-attached nationalists. The socialists and the liberals would have wanted the document adopted, while the Members of the biggest group, of the People’s Party, were faced with severe internal disagreements and did not have a common line at the final vote.

Here is how the EP political forces voted at the end:

EU energy strategy, final, overall

What did the strategy say?

In the context of the crisis in Ukraine, the European Union has to take into account the importance of energy security. Indeed, the vulnerability of the energy market in the international context has made energy policy as one of the strategic priorities in foreign affairs.  Therefore, the EU needs to develop an energy policy based on close coordination of positions and speaking with one voice.

This resolution stated that there has been a significant progress towards strengthening the EU’s energy security in recent years, but the EU still faces a number of challenges like instability in delivering energy, a fragmented internal market and a climate issues.

The report said that the moderation of energy demand through energy efficiency is crucial for the EU’s energy security, competitiveness and sustainability. Moreover, it stated that in order to reduce energy dependence the EU has to increase its “indigenous energy production” and that a functioning internal energy market that would ensure the participation of different energy suppliers may offer reliable services at lower prices.

The text also stated that further efforts are needed to develop interconnections and remove bottlenecks to ensure competitive and well-integrated regional energy markets. All in all, the resolution called for a fundamental change to the way the EU supplies, distributes and consumes energy.

Why was the resolution rejected ?

During the voting session, the balance of power between the conservative and the progressive camp was so close, that a few Members who shifted sides from one vote to the other could make the difference. As a result, the outcomes were unpredictable and at the end of the vote, most Members were unsure of what actually came out of the document and did not feel confident enough to support it. The EPP in particular did not have a common line at the final vote. This allowed the smaller groups, who had a clearer view, to vote down the entire strategy.

Binding energy efficiency target narrowly adopted

The left-of-center groups plus the liberals have been able to push through a paragraph stating that “a binding energy efficiency target would be the cost-efficient way to reduce Europe’s energy dependency”, recalling that the EP adopted the 2030 three binding targets (energy efficiency target of 40 %, a renewables target of at least 30 % and a greenhouse gas emissions reduction target of at least 40 %). The statement was adopted by 354 votes in favour, 337 against and 8 abstentions.

Energy strategy, binding targets

Shale gas exploitation YES, but after being proven environmental-friendly

Center-right groups succeeded in rejecting and amendment asking the Member States “to refrain from any shale gas exploration and exploitation activities” by 289 votes in favour, 388 against and 25 abstentions.

Energy strategy, shale gas

However, another amendment stating that hydraulic fracturing is not a promising technology and urging Member States not to “authorise operations involving the exploration or extraction of unconventional fuels within the EU until this is proven to be safe for the environment, citizens and workers”, was adopted.

Energy strategy, fracturing

Subsidies to nuclear energy project to be continued

The leftist groups failed in passing an amendment calling on Member States and the EU institutions to phase out subsidies and other public funding for new and existing nuclear facilities. The provision was reject by 248 votes in favour and 419 against.

Energy strategy, nuclear

However, since the text as a whole was ultimately rejected, the votes on the separate provisions have only a symbolic meaning.