The Treaty of Lisbon recognises the importance of energy policy by dedicating a specific chapter to it in the founding Treaties of the European Union (EU). The EU henceforth has clearly defined competences in order to meet the common objectives of Member States on energy-related matters.
The international situation and the development of energy-related issues have demonstrated the importance of a European energy policy. A European response is therefore the most effective way of dealing with issues such as environmental protection, the security of energy supply and the dialogue with energy producing countries.
A NEW LEGAL BASIS FOR ENERGY POLICY AT EUROPEAN LEVEL
Before the Treaty of Lisbon entered into force, the founding Treaties of the EU did not include a specific provision on EU intervention in the field of energy.
Henceforth, the Treaty of Lisbon introduces a specific legal basis for the field of energy with the creation of Article 194 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU. In particular, this innovation makes it possible to explain and clarify EU action in the area of energy.
The EU is entitled to take measures at European level to:
- ensure the functioning of the energy market;
- ensure security of energy supply;
- promote energy efficiency;
- promote the interconnection of energy networks.
Furthermore, the European Council and the European Parliament shall adopt legislative acts based on the ordinary legislative procedure after consultation of the Committee of the Regions and the European Economic and Social Committee. However, for the adoption of measures of a fiscal nature, the Council shall act unanimously after consultation with the Parliament.
THE DELIMITATION OF EU COMPETENCES IN THE FIELD OF ENERGY
Energy henceforth forms part of the shared competences between the EU and Member States and is therefore subject to the principle of subsidiarity. As a consequence, the EU may only intervene if it is capable of acting more effectively than Member States.
In addition, the Treaty of Lisbon specifies that the EU may not intervene in Member States’ choices in relation to their energy supply sources, unless it does so unanimously and on environmental grounds (Article 192 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU). In particular, such a restriction covers the underlying issue of nuclear energy. Situations and positions vary enormously from one European country to another on this subject.
Finally, the Treaty of Lisbon makes reference to the “spirit of solidarity” which should prevail between Member States in the implementation of European energy policy. This solidarity will prove to be important, particularly in times of crisis: if one or more Member States face a cut in supply, they could then rely on a supply of energy from the other Member States.