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The EU’s External Energy Policy and the Struggle for Coherent Action: the Case of Russian Gas.

Open Panel

Abstract

In spite of a dramatic increase in regulatory activities designed to establish a broad European energy market and fight climate change, the EU has been unable to establish a common energy policy. The lack of a coherent policy at the international level is particularly felt in the Union’s relations with powerful hydrocarbon suppliers such as Russia. For a variety of reasons, including, EU Member States’ national preferences over their energy mix, historical ties, and relative energy market position, there is a certain asymmetry in the way EU Member States would like to approach Russia on energy matters. According to many commentators, this multiplicity of voices is the main reason as to why the EU has largely failed to develop a coherent and strategic approach to the reality of the Union’s dependence on Russian natural gas. The main question for the EU in this respect is how to rationalise its energy policy, enabling Brussels to be the central actor, as opposed to a set of disparate ones. The aims of this paper are threefold. Through an assessment of the EU’s energy policy toward Russia, the author analyses (i) the factors which determine the position of EU Member States vis-à-vis Russia on energy and related matters, (ii) the consequences of these positions for the (in)ability of the Union to exert a coherent external energy policy toward Russia, and (iii) the effects the Lisbon Treaty and its new institutional structures/actors have on the Union’s (future) competencies over external energy matters.