eu is a desperate energy junkie

Energy can be a dirty business. But when you import more than half your supplies every year, sometimes you just have to get a deal done.

The European Union is addicted to energy imports. Its dependence was brutally exposed whenever Russia turned off the taps. These crises gave impetus to the bloc’sEnergy Union plan.

About 30% of Europe’s gas comes from Russia and the bloc imports 53% of its energy every year at a cost of more than €1 billion a day.

One major aim of the Energy Union strategy is to diversify energy suppliers in a bid to lessen the reliance on Russian gas and Middle Eastern oil.

This means making friends with governments every bit as authoritarian as that ruled by Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Libya, Iraq and Iran have been earmarkedas potential suppliers.

Energy and realpolitik go hand in hand. Many governments deal with Saudi Arabia, despite it regularly being branded the worst of the worst in surveys of political rights.

In April 2016, no fewer than eight Commissioners travelled to Iran in a visit to bolster energy ties, even though member states had extended sanctions against Tehran forhuman rights abuses.

Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker met Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev in Brussels today.

The pow-wow was criticised by no fewer than 76 NGOs. They urged Juncker to use the visit to raise Baku’s recordon human rights. Azerbaijan defends itself robustlyfrom such accusations.

Asked today whether energy supplies or human rights would be prioritised in the Brussels-Baku partnership, the Commission saidboth were “important”.

Last week, it said that Juncker wasnot “terribly reserved”when talking to his partners, hinting the Luxembourger could take Aliyev to task.

Juncker even joked to the press, “I’m going to meet the president of Azerbaijan now so the pleasant part of theday is over.”

We may never know what happens behind closed doors. Perhaps wary of difficult questions, the Commission had no plans to hold a press conference with the two presidents.

European Council President Donald Tusk also met with Aliyev. He said they discussed human rights and the importance offreedom of expression. They also discussed the Southern Gas Corridor pipeline.

“Azerbaijan is important for Europe’s energy security and diversification of supplies,” Tusk said.

The EU is an energy junkie. It can only get clean through far greater energy efficiency and domestic renewables.

That is a long way off and policymakers have picked gas as their lower carbon “bridge fuel” to a greener future.

No strongman leader worth his salt will take high falutin’ human rights talk seriously. Not when it comes from an addict who needs his fix.


British Prime Minister Theresa May should insist that Brexit negotiations are heldin “neutral Switzerland”, rather than Brussels, according to Kate Hoey MP. She is a Brexit-supporting member of the opposition Labour party. The Commission managed (just) to keep a straight face and said it wouldinform Michel Barnier.

Nigel Farage is sharing a £4 million London flat with a French politician. His current wife confirmed they have been “living separate lives” for years.

The European Parliament has scolded the UK tabloid press for bad reporting on Brussels’ alleged demand that sports teams and venues display the Union flag. The Parliament pointed out that the EU has no say on sport policy and accused the papers of “scoring an own goal”.

Hawkish German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said he doesn’t think the UK should be punished during the Brexit negotiations and suggested that the best way to deal with Donald Trump is to watch Angela Merkel and copy her “calm” approach.

A new report has warned that development aid is being siphoned offto house refugeesin the EU. The Commission today published a report on the implementation of environmental lawacross the bloc.

The pressure finally took its toll in Romania. The government withdrew a hugely controversial decree that drew a reported 200,000 people onto the streets of Bucharest. A new bill will be published soon.

Despite not thinking much of it, Donald Trump is going to meet with NATO leaders in May. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has told bitter rivals Kosovo and Serbia to “calm down”.

One Polish MP thinks that it is “just a matter of time” before Trump lifts sanctions against Russia, which will worsen relations between Warsaw and Moscow.

France’s presidential race heated up nicely over the weekend, with Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen both choosing Lyon to launch their campaigns.

Beleaguered Republican candidate François Fillon’s days as his party’s candidate might be over soon, but who would they replace him with?

Most French citizens (80%) told pollsters that they would vote for “a leader that is prepared to change the rules of the game”.


sluggish renewables investment poses challenge to eu energy plans


European investment in renewables has dropped by half since 2011, but the EU remains “well on track” to hit its 2020 target of boosting the sector by 20%, the European Commission said today (1 February) as it launched its second report on its Energy Union strategy.

The EU has promised to make itself the “world number one in renewables”. But while European investment dropped to €44 billion, global backing for renewables has increased to more than €260 billion.

In 2014, there was a 16% renewables share in the bloc final energy consumption and an estimated 16.4% share in 2015, in 2014 renewables generated 27.5% of the EU’s electricity, the European Commission said. This is expected to climb to 50% by 2030.

However, the EU accounts for just 18% of total global investment, a drop from almost 50% six years ago.  The Commission said new finance would have to be unlocked to reach the € 379 billion needed every year to reach the EU’s climate and energy targets.

It said that the expanded Juncker Plan could help raise more capital. The cost of renewables was dropping and becoming more competitive, said the executive. Solar modules prices dropped by 80% between the end of 2009 and end of 2015.

The State of the Energy Union report assesses Europe’s progress on the plan, which aims to reduce its dependence on imports and fight climate change.  Increasing efficiency and renewable will help reduce demand and global warming pollution. The Juncker Commission analysed progress made up to 2014.

The Commission vowed to put “energy efficiency first” in the flagship strategy.  Today the executive said it was optimistic that the EU would hit its 2020 efficiency goal but warned that it would require sustained effort from member states.

The EU has reduced its final energy consumption, which means use by households and businesses, to below the 2020 target. But primary energy consumption, which also includes generation sectors and distribution, loses remains below the 2020 goal.

Final energy consumption dropped by 11% from 2005 to 2014. In 2014, the bloc used 1063 million tonnes of oil equivalent, 2.2% below the 2020 target of 1086 Mtoe.

The EU’s total consumption in 2014 was 1507 Mtoe, 1.6% above the 1483 Mtoe goal for 2030. Primary energy consumption increased slightly from 2014-15 but dropped by 12% from 2005 to 2014.

Greenhouse gas emissions

The EU has binding 2020 targets of a 20% increase in renewables and efficiency above 1990 levels.  EU leaders agreed 2030 targets of at least 27% in October 2014, ahead of the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference in Paris.

In Paris, world leaders committed to cap global warming at no more than two degrees above pre-industrial levels.

The success of the landmark deal, which entered into force in November, led the European Commission to increase the 2030 renewables target to 30% in draft legislation.  The revised 2030 targets are being scrutinised by MEPs and member states before becoming law.

Increased renewables and efficiency levels will contribute to the EU meeting its targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.  In 2015, renewables contributed to reducing emissions by 436 metric tons of CO2, the same as Italy’s emissions.

Over 2005 to 2015, lower levels of energy consumption helped to cut GHG emission by around 800 million tonnes of CO2 in 2014, almost equal to Germany’s emissions that year.

The bloc has already overshot its 2020 GHG goal of 20%, which has led some campaigners to criticise the target as too low. The EU has a 2030 GHG reduction target of at least 40% compared to 1990 levels.

Energy security

The Ukraine crisis exposed the EU’s dependence on Russian gas and gave impetus to the plan. The EU imports 53% of all the energy it consumes at a cost of more than 1 billion a day.

Last year renewables made a €16 billion saving on fossil fuel imports, which the Commission said would rise to 58 billion – the GDP of Luxembourg – in 2030.

Greater efficiency reduces import demand.  A 30% 2030 efficiency target would save €70 billion in fossil fuel import bill and cut gas imports by 12%, compared to a 27% target, according to Commission analysis.


towards a more responsible lifestyle for european students


In 2017, Erasmus, the EU’s flagship education program, celebrates its 30th anniversary.

Erasmus gives students the opportunity to meet new people, to learn about new cultures, to discover new countries. The openness to diversity and the mobility facilitated by this unique program represents a major asset for more and more young Europeans, and is highly appreciated in the professional world. Students and young graduates across Europe are increasingly aware of this and seek to make the best of this experience of a lifetime abroad.

Erasmus also gives students the opportunity to party and celebrate together. Alcohol misuse seems to be particularly widespread among young students, in particular during study exchange periods abroad. Binge drinking among young adults is of particular concern for European policymakers and stakeholders, and mobilises efforts to promote responsible, balanced and safe lifestyles among young people.

The Responsible Party program is a partnership between the Erasmus Student Network (ESN) and Pernod Ricard which endeavours to promote viable solutions to alcohol misuse and safe behaviour among young people. organised a high-level debate to discuss experiences in the Erasmus program and the road towards more responsible and safe behaviour among young adults.

Questions discussed included:

• What are the experiences and expectations of the Erasmus students?
• How can responsible partying be promoted among students?
• What roles for student organisations, stakeholders and policymakers?




Figures released on 26 January show that 678,000 Europeans went abroad to study, train, work or volunteer with Erasmus+ in 2015, more than ever before.

26 January 2017 also marks the launch of the From Erasmus to Erasmus+: A Story of 30 years campaign. This Europe-wide campaign of events and activities will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Erasmus programme, first launched in 1987 and now part of Erasmus+.

The figures are among the findings of the Erasmus+ Annual Report for 2015. Further highlights from the annual report include:

  • €2.1 billion invested in the Erasmus+programme in 2015
  • 19,600 projects funded with over 69,000 participating organisations


mepS bolster eu recycling and landfill targets


Members of the European Parliament’s Environment Committee on the 24th of January, moved to increase draft EU recycling and landfill targets that had been lowered by the European Commission in its re-tabled Circular Economy Package.

Supporters of the circular economy argue that there needs to be a shift towards sustainability, where as little of the planet’s finite resources are wasted as possible as the world population booms

The suite of six bills of rules for waste, packaging, landfill end of life vehicles, batteries and accumulators, and waste electronic equipment was put forward by the Commission in December last year.

It had previously withdrawn an earlier version of the package, prepared under the Barroso Commission, as part of its ‘better regulation’ strategy.

Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans promised that the new Circular Economy Package would be “more ambitious” than its 2014 predecessor.

But although it included new legislation to encourage easy-to-recycle design of products, it had lower targets for recycling and landfill than the first version.

MEPs in Brussels voted to restore the lowered targets to the level of the original proposal yesterday.

They backed a 2030 recycling target for municipal waste of 70%, the same as the 2014 package but 5% more than the new proposal.  They also called for a new 2030 reuse target of 5%. This sub-target aims to encourage the repair and fixing of products.

The 2030 target for packaging recycling was set at 80%, the same as in 2014, but higher than the 75% backed by the executive.

The file, led by Italian Socialists and Democrats MEP Simona Bonafè, must now be voted on in plenary. It is possible, although unlikely, that some of the amendments could be voted down in the full Parliament session, which is scheduled to take place in Strasbourg in March.

“The European Parliament voted today to restore the ambitious target of 70% of recycled waste by 2030, as well as a waste landfill target restricted to 5% by 2030, in line with what the Commission had originally proposed in  its more ambitious proposal in 2014,” Bonafè said.

The package will only be finalised once both the Parliament and Council of Ministers agree on an identical text. Malta, which holds the rotating EU Presidency, has said it will try to reach a deal with MEPs before 1 July, when its six month term ends.

Ambition welcomed

Green campaigners welcomed the increased targets but called for them to be retained during negotiations with the Council. The two sides are not thought to be too far apart, with some observers expecting the Council to back either the 70% or 65% recycling target.

Piotr Barczak, waste policy officer at the European Environmental Bureau, said: “The strong support shown for the recycling and repair sector by MEPs today can pave the way for over 800,000 jobs to be created across Europe by 2030. But for this boom to materialise, the Council must now put the economy and the planet first and support these ambitious targets.”

Meadhbh Bolger, resource justice campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe, said: “Yesterday’s  vote gives a strong signal to the Commission that lost ambition on cutting European resource use needs to be restored. It is now up to the whole Parliament and the Council to step up to the plate and keep these raised recycling targets and better measures to prevent waste and incineration.”

Common method

MEPs also called for a common EU-wide method of at what point in the recycling process recycling rates can be calculated from. Differences in methodologies across EU member states mean that data is not comparable.

The MEPs’ preferred point for calculating recycling is at the point of the final recycling process. Some countries calculate the rate after, for example, the first sorting of waste.

Guy Thiran is director general of Eurometaux, which represents non-ferrous metal producers and recyclers in Europe.

He said, “Under current rules, EU recycling rates do not reflect exactly what happens to collected and sorted waste. MEPs have sent a strong signal that this situation needs to change.”

The old package had an aspirational target of reducing waste going to landfill by 25% by 2025 and a total ban on the landfill of recyclable and compostable waste in 2030.

That was replaced with a mandatory target of 10% by 2030.  MEPs voted to further reduce waste going to landfill by supporting a 5% goal.

This was accompanied by language to discourage incineration of waste as an alternative to it going to landfill.

MEPs also strengthened legislation to halve food waste by 2030 in the EU. Although the wording was toughened up, the target remains voluntary and non-binding.


Address: Charles Martel 54, 1000 Brussels, Belgium                e-mail:                  Telephone: +322 2682002