EU countries agreed this morning to become less reliant on Russian gas in the latest response to the Ukraine political crisis.
What’s more they must embrace a “new way of doing energy business” and work more as a “team”, the President of the European Council declared.
Speaking after an EU meeting on energy and climate change issues, Herman Van Rompuy warned that without action now, by 2035 the EU would be dependent on foreign exports for up to 80% of oil and gas.
Mr Van Rompuy said: “Today we sent a clear signal that Europe is stepping up a gear to reduce energy dependency, especially with Russia: by reducing our energy demand, with more energy efficiency; by diversifying our supply routes to and within Europe and expanding energy sources, in particular renewables; by energy security on our border and security of supply for our neighbours.”
Boosting links between the Iberian peninsula and the Mediterranean as well as interconnections with third countries should be pursued, he said.
EU members should also show “solidarity” in case of sudden disruptions of energy supply said Mr Van Rompuy.
He added countries should look at how US gas can be brought to the EU through the Southern Corridor – plans for a gas pipe from the Caspian Sea and Middle East – and spur routes through Eastern Europe.
Increasing “joint bargaining power” was a theme of talks, he said: “Sharing more information, bringing more transparency on contract conditions… Leaders are ready to maximise their collective hand.”
Harking back to the origins of the European Union, Mr Van Rompuy said: “Europe was first built as a community for coal and steel. Sixty-four years later, and in new circumstances, it is clear we need to be moving towards an energy union.”
The European Commission has been asked to come up with a concrete action plan to base “a comprehensive energy security framework” on, in time for a June summit.
Yesterday the European Council again condemned the Crimean referendum to join Russia as “illegal” and claimed the Kremlin was “annexing” Crimea.
Meanwhile a celebratory gun salute was scheduled in Moscow for this evening as Russian President Vladimir Putin today signed laws to admit Crimea into the Russian Federation.
Mr Putin said: “This is a big and important event. We are completing today the legal procedures for admitting Crimea and Sevastopol to the Russian Federation.”