Security of gas supplies: solidarity as a legal obligation

Security of gas supplies: solidarity as a legal obligation

“Solidarity is not an empty slogan: it is a duty, now enshrined in law. We cannot rely on goodwill and voluntary schemes if the supply of gas to a Member State from outside is cut off. We need a binding mechanism to deliver gas to every protected consumer, be it a household, hospital or district heating installation, in every EU country in need”, says Jerzy Buzek, Chairman of EP Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) and rapporteur on the Regulation on measures to safeguard the security of gas supply.

The report, adopted today with a vast majority by ITRE, is a crucial piece of legislation establishing the Energy Union. “It is a major step towards ensuring energy security for all of the EU and the Energy Community. More than half of the gas needed in Europe depends on one monopolistic supplier. This makes Europe vulnerable, as we saw clearly in the gas crises of 2006, 2009 and 2014. What is more, almost all gas flowing in Europe crosses at least one state border. It is an international problem that requires international solutions”, says Jerzy Buzek.

ITRE report - among other things - establishes enhanced regional cooperation. Risk assessments, prevention plans and emergency plans in case of disruptions in gas supplies are to be prepared not by individual Member States, but jointly by national authorities in seven EU regions specially formed for this purpose.

The EP rapporteur also proposed to strengthen the European approach by introducing Emergency Supply Corridors. They shall help the Member States, working together in regions, determine the main directions and gas flow corridors in Europe in order to ensure, in case of a crisis, the supply of gas inside the regions and between them.

A solidarity clause would be activated automatically. “When one of the EU countries is affected by a very serious crisis of gas supplies, its neighbours have an obligation to supply gas to that country’s most sensitive consumers - the so called protected customers”, says Jerzy Buzek.

Until now, Member States had quite some discretion in defining the groups of protected consumers, which made the solidarity mechanism difficult to apply. To improve this, the EP’s position harmonizes and narrows this definition to households, healthcare, emergency and security services as well as to district heating installations.

As the last point, Jerzy Buzek underlines that “Members States and the European Commission should be able to assess gas contracts which are of particular importance to EU’s energy security. The Parliament is also giving the national authorities and the Commission stronger tools to ensure that everyone in our common energy market indeed plays by market rules.”