Brussels: EPP Energy Seminar Shows Divide Between Old Europe & New

Majority of participants disagree with panelists

The timing was perfect. With much of Europe in the middle of a heated public debate regarding energy security and global warming, the center-right European People’s Party (EPP) — Europe’s largest alliance of political parties — together with the think tank European Ideas Network (EIN), jointly organized an important, high profile seminar on “Europe’s Energy Challenge”.

The event took place on 7th February 2007. Amongst others, the speakers were Andris Piebalgs (European Commissioner for Energy), Stavros Dimas (European Commissioner for Environment), Jacek Saryusz-Wolski MEP, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the EU-Parliament and Vice-president of the EPP, Viktor Orban, EPP-Vice-president and former Hungarian PM, Philippe de Buc (Secretary General of UNICE/BusinessEurope) and Arthouros Zevros (President of the European Renewable Energy Council).

Wilfried Martens (EPP President), James Elles (MEP and Chairman of the European Ideas Network) and Joseph Daul (Chairman of the EPP-ED Group in the European Parliament) were also participating in the important meeting.

Despite the input of many distinguished panelists, there was only one dominant message being trumpeted: The EPP-definition of energy security must focus on “sustainability.” And in this case that is not necessarily a common-sense-approach to the matter, but instead a surrender to the agenda of extremist Green groups who were heavily lobbying the EPP.

Regrettably, most of the speakers shared the deep pessimism of present day environmentalism and its views regarding the scarcity of raw materials and energy. While it once championed the optimistic objective of how improve people’s lives, the official “EPP-Proposals For a More Sustainable, Efficient and Secure Future of Energy” now seems more bent on how we can simply “keep our standard of living” from plummeting. And while the organizers rejected any contribution by climate optimists, alarmist ideas were given a lot of room to bemoan the state of the planet.

Commissioner Dimas, in particular, took occasion to link energy and environmental issues when he emphasized that “climate change and energy security can be successfully tackled together.” Unfortunately, he only focused narrowly on energy efficiency, renewables, and Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) as so-called “win-win energy solutions.” While the last point is not at this point viable, since various EU-sponsored programs on CCS are still in a very early stage, the first two point only to the well-known demands of green groups and “alternative” energy lobbyists. Another suggestion of Mr. Dimas was to “complement this [energy strategy] with a strong ETS, and international leadership on climate change.” This too seems to be illusionary as well, since ETS is about to fail as many nations are failing to meet Kyoto obligations and China, India and the US are not very like to follow EU-policy recommendations.

That energy security not only entails aspects of alternative lifestyles and a focus on wind power, solar cells, hybrid cars and other green gimmicks, but primarily strategic and economic decisions, based on hard facts, was only emphasized by speakers form the new member states, Mr. Saryusz-Wolski MEP and Mr. Orban MP. Also sadly absent was any positive, forceful mention of nuclear power or new clean coal technologies that offer an energy-rich promise of a bright future.

On a positive note, the discussions afterwards – both inside and outside the conference room – revealed that perhaps a majority of the participants were very critical of the meeting’s tenor. One Austrian MEP openly emphasized the role of nuclear energy for energy security, and another participant from Poland called the seminar a “show” that did not reflect what he believed were the sentiments of his countrymen. A high-ranking EPP advisor from Germany told CFACT-Europe’s Executive Director Mr. Holger Thuss, who was also among the participants, that the event was “entirely disappointing” because it “contradicts the results of the EPP working groups”.

Thus the seminar primarily did not offer many solutions, but did in fact reflected a split between politicians from old and new member states, and between liberal leaning factions and other members of the EPP that are less willing to surrender the core values of European Christian Democracy and Conservatism in order to satisfy the agenda of extremist Greens.

Links:

EPP-Proposals For a More Sustainable, Efficient and Secure Future of Energy (official document):
http://www.epp.eu/ dbimages/pdf/EPP.%20Europe%20Energy%20Challenge.pdf

Speech of Stavros Dimas, member of the European Commission:
http://www.epp.eu/ dbimages/pdf/Dimas%20Speech.doc

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About the Author: Holger Thuss