Article from: OGEL 4 (2012), in Editorial
International Federation of European Law (FIDE) Papers in OGEL
The designation of energy as one of three topics to be discussed this year at the FIDE Conference is an indication of how far energy studies have come to reach the mainstream of debate in EU law. The FIDE event is an annual gathering of more than 500 European lawyers and judges which this year is to be held in Tallin, Estonia.
Over the past ten years the EU has introduced a sweeping series of legislative and regulatory changes into EU electricity and gas industries, and in the process has modified its founding treaty to include a chapter dedicated specifically to the energy sector of the EU. Gradually, case law is being developed by EU courts on issues arising from the European energy sector. This is a far cry from the cosy 'energy club' that dominated much of continental Europe until the early 21st century.
Yet it has exposed underlying tensions too. The priorities of EU energy policy have always been: competition, sustainability and security, even if they have been defined differently from time to time. For many states the tensions between environmental priorities and an ever closer market have been a source of problems in recent years, as the EU has sanctioned subsidies and support schemes for renewable forms of energy in its journey to create a low carbon Europe. For others the key tension has been security and environmental concerns - for Poland the development of its large deposits of shale gas would generate gains in energy security but also raise environmental issues. The new Energy Chapter in the Lisbon Treaty sets out these priorities but leaves us with few clues as to how to prioritise them.
Different problems are now inescapable. The achievements of the internal energy market suddenly look vulnerable in the face of the current Eurozone crisis and a popular disenchantment with the EU itself. The economic benefits of a more competitive energy market shrink in significance alongside the mega-challenges faced by several of the EU member states. For non-EU observers the European integration process has often been more baffling than impressive. Their puzzlement can only grow when EU energy policy is being shaped by a green environmental policy that emphasises support schemes and carbon credits. By no means unworthy or wrong, these grand policy initiatives nonetheless appear increasingly - at least in global terms - as evidence of a 'European exceptionalism', a phenomenon which in times of economic crisis must surely make the most ardent Europhiles pause and reflect on the choices they are and have been advocating.
The collection of FIDE papers from various national rapporteurs assembled here is one that follows the format of a standard questionnaire. It covered five sub-topics: energy law and policy and especially, the energy chapter in the TFEU; energy security; regulation and competition policy; the promotion and subsidy of renewable energy, and climate change. A general report sets the scene and comments on the national reports. However, the debates at the Conference itself will generate fresh insights and a further, more elaborate report. Perhaps some of the larger issues outline above will be raised and discussed by the delegates. For OGEL readers, this is a useful collection of national snapshots of law and regulation in key aspects of EU energy. For those of us who will be at the Conference, this is a taster of the subject matter about which we shall be engaging in very robust debate.
28 May 2012
FIDE General Rapporteur, Energy
University of Dundee (UK)