22 March 2013
An effective EU energy policy needs informed and structured public dialogues
If the EU is to meet its energy policy targets, it must take society with it, says the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) in an opinion that calls for the establishment of a European Energy Dialogue.
The opinion, which was handed to Günther Oettinger, EU Commissioner in charge of energy at the EESC's plenary session yesterday, had been drawn up by Richard Adams (United Kingdom, Various Interests Group) at the request of the European Commission.
In the Committee's view, the European Energy Dialogue (EED) would be a coordinated, multi-level, action-oriented conversation on energy policy within and across EU countries. It would be synonymous with reliable information about energy and would discuss practical issues in a language ordinary people can understand.
The EED would engage with citizens in terms of explaining trade-offs and expressing preferences. It would provide "a negotiation space" where policy choices would be discussed against a background of societal impact and acceptance, investments and resource strategy.
As a fundamentally new concept, the EED would not replace or duplicate existing mechanisms, but supplement them with public engagement and citizen involvement, said the EESC. It would be "a stimulus and enhancement of debate at national, regional and local levels, mixing everyday knowledge, experience and understanding with technical and expert information", said the EESC.
"We are entering a time of intense political debate about energy – can it be sustainable, secure, competitive and affordable?", said Mr Adams, adding that "greater awareness and understanding of energy issues will lead to greater political confidence in citizen support for the difficult task of long-term decision-making".
"Increasing europeanization of energy policy makes it necessary for us to step up involvement of European citizens", concurred Commissioner Oettinger.
The European Energy Dialogue will therefore contribute to policy-making across all forms of energy and have a recognised role in stimulating convergence at EU level, with strong links to the post-2020 energy and climate action framework.
The Committee is willing to take the lead establishing an on-going EED implemented at "national, regional, metropolitan and local level" with the support of the European Commission and direct involvement of all stakeholders of the energy chain.
The EESC will seek to establish alliances with all interested parties, and to involve national civil societies, in different member states, starting with France in a conference to be held in Paris on 14 May 2013.
"The EED is a practical, large-scale exercise in participatory democracy, genuinely interfacing with representative democracy on a topic vital to everyone", said Mr Adams.
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