November 4, 2008
Specificities of the Czech Presidency
My colleagues and I had conversations with Czech officials and businesses to exchange on how the Czechs will manage these priorities in the energy and environment field. The summary of these exchanges are the following:
The Czech Republic is currently managed by a fragile political coalition which can make for a slower and more unpredictable decision making process:
· This internal situation could weaken the Czech Presidency.
· Some new Member States are hoping that the Czech Presidency will be more favourable to their cause against some proposed pieces of EU legislation in the field of energy and environment such as climate change. The presidency will undoubtedly give them more opportunities and time in the Council debates to allow them to be more vocal.
How will the Czechs manage their priorities in the field of energy and environment ?
The Czech priorities, in the environment and energy fields, are the following:
• Energy Policy
• Energy security and foreign relations
• Internal power and gas market
• Energy efficiency and low-carbon technologies
• Climate protection
• Protection of human health and environment
• Sustainable consumption and production
• Biodiversity protection
In comparison with the French and the Swedish, the Czech Presidency has a much more sceptical position on strict CO2 emission reduction targets. However, from January 2009 onwards, the Czechs will be less vocal than in the past months on the issue as their role of President of the Council will require them to reach a consensus amongst the 27 Member States.
In this context, the Czechs will use the Presidency to:
o push the Commission to make a robust analysis on “carbon leakage” risks and to give clear answers on the potential increase in electricity prices due to the measures included in the climate change package.
o allow Member States which refuse the full auctioning of the emission allowances to the power industry or express concerns about the energy dependence on Russia (such as Poland) to voice their concerns louder in the Council debate. Some Member States are hoping that the Czechs will delay the decision making process and that the debates would reopen after the autumn 2009, with a new European Parliament and a new Commission.
Clean coal technologies, CCS
As a high share of the electricity production comes from coal in the Czech Republic, the Czechs see clean coal technologies as an important topic. In this context, the Czechs will use the Presidency:
o to promote massive financial support from the EU budget to CCS pilot projects
o to establish one CCS pilot project in the Czech Republic
At this stage, the Czechs do not see positively the binding targets for the CCS such as deadlines, standards for the CO2 emissions per kWh, etc.
The Czech government is sceptical about the international trading scheme for the guarantees of origin proposed by the EC. The country has a low technical potential for further development of renewable energies.
In this context, the Czechs will use the Presidency to advocate (like on the climate change debate) for targets for countries with unfavourable natural conditions and to give more space to the Member States opposed to the legislation.
Liberalisation of the EU electricity and gas markets
The Czech Presidency will have to close the legislative process on the liberalisation of the energy market.
The Czech government is supporting further liberalisation of the EU energy market and different approaches to the power and gas industry as the national electricity TSO is unbundled and the main gas group vertically integrated.
The Czechs support ITO for both the power and gas industry as the only achievable compromise for the EU.
Access to cross-border transport capacities
This subject is an important priority for the Czech Presidency as a significant transit country for both electricity and gas. The Czechs believe that the physical interconnection between the EU-15 and EU-10 is insufficient.
The Czechs would like to propose a new single tariff for international electricity transmission and an effective EU initiative on building new cross-border transmission lines.
The presidency would like to see the EU develop closer contacts and collaboration with the Western Balkans, Central Asia and Turkey as crucial partners for establishment of new energy routes and alternative energy supply bases.
EU-Russia energy cooperation
Due to the historic situation and the current political coalition, the Czech government is very reserved towards Russia.
The Czechs will advocate against further increases of Russian energy imports. The Czech government is always referring to the idea that “no signed paper has the power to ensure the physical delivery of the energy”.
In this context, the Czech Presidency would like to take some initiatives on the issue of security of supply, “energy “ solidarity between Member States and continue to support the Nabucco project.
European investments in Russia, Russian investments in the EU
The Czech Presidency will continue to advocate for the same “level playing field” for Russian investments in the EU as well as European investments in Russia and to criticise bilateral high-level contacts between some of the EU-15 states and Russia, e.g. Germany, Italy and France.
The Czechs are long-term and most active supporters of the nuclear energy in the EU. The Czech Republic has a long tradition in nuclear engineering, nowadays controlled by Russian investors.
Temporally, the political situation at the national level is complicated by the presence in the government of the Green party, refusing the construction of new nuclear power plants. Nevertheless, unofficial preparations of new nuclear projects have already been launched.
As the co-founder of the EU Nuclear Forum together with Slovakia, the Czech Republic will continue to advocate for an energy mix which will include all energy sources.
The debate on energy taxation is not closed at national level. The Presidency is unlikely to take any major initiatives in this field.Author : nicolas