South West MEPs clash over Commission proposals to scrutinise energy deals - La Treizième Étoile: A blog on EU politics
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South West MEPs clash over Commission proposals to scrutinise energy deals

Thursday, 22 September 2011
South West MEP Giles Chichester has vowed to fight the latest proposal from the European Commission to inspect and vet all major energy deals between EU Member States and other countries such as Russia, labelling them as the “worst kind of meddling”. But fellow MEP Sir Graham Watson has said it was no surprise “blue-in-the-face eurosceptics” such as Mr Chichester were “jumping up anddown decrying the move” and accused him of “fiddling while the planet burns”.

Günther Oettinger, the current European Commissioner for Energy, wants EU governments negotiating agreements with non-EU states to submit details of the arrangements to Brussels before giving them the greenlight.

Mr Chichester, the Conservative party’s spokesman on energy in Europe has lambasted these suggestions and in a statement saidour energy arrangements are Britain’s own business, not the Commission’s. This is an attempt to control and interfere with our individual trading interests on a new and deeply worrying scale […] These proposals pose all sorts of worrying questions about business confidentiality, commercial sensitivity and the fairness of any bidding process.

But Mr Oettinger insists that these new powers are needed to ensure that all future energy deals made with non-EU states comply withexisting EU law. Since taking up his Commissioner post, he has sought to givethe EU a more unified external energy policy and greater leverage innegotiations with the likes of Russia by speaking as one bloc. “This does not mean that the EU is going to be at the table of all negotiations,he told the Financial Times.“If we speak with one voice, I think we have a completely different weight.

This opinion is shared by fellow South West MEP Sir Graham Watson who in a recent article wrote that “when considered together, Europe's energy and electricity market is huge and if we stand together - we have serious clout, both in terms of influencing theworld's future energy direction and protecting ourselves from political crisesand price volatility.

"Of course, when this was announced - the blue-in-the-face eurosceptics in the UK, including my Conservative fellow MEP for the South West of England Giles Chichester, immediately started jumping up and down decrying the move as ‘meddling’. Commissioner Oettinger was accused of ‘fiddling while the Euro burns’. I would accuse Chichester of ‘fiddling while the planet burns’.

"Up until now, the EU's energy policy beyond its borders has often been a matter of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. I welcome this new proposal that will make sure that EU authorities and countries are fully aware of each other's energy deals with foreign countries," he said.

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