The European Union has taken a first step towards a common policy on sustainable, competitive and secured energy for the bloc. The policy will be drafted this year. Ideas include coordinating national policies and negotiating jointly with suppliers, such as Russia. Wrapping up a two-day summit in Brussels, Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel, of the current EU president Austria, said:
“For me, the most important subject is economising on energy. If we manage a reduction of 20% in sixteen years, our decision will be important.” At the same time, key EU members remained at odds over major takeover deals that have tested whether the bloc really can be a single, open market. France has blocked an Italian move; Spain a German bid; But all these countries are under the watchful eye of Brussels regulators, on the lookout for protectionism.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair felt quite comfortable: “The electricity in 10 Downing Street is supplied by a French company, the water by a German company, the gas by a choice of four companies -three of which are not British. I don’t think that is a great problem for us any more. We moved to a liberalised market; We don’t find it is a problem in the UK. And the point is that the more open the market is, the better it is for consumers right across Europe.”
To help growth, the leaders also agreed to work on job or training guarantees for youth, and minimise the administrative burden on small and medium-sized companies. But in another sign of so-called ‘economic patriotism’, in some places, they backed a watered-down version of the services legislation that emerged from the European Parliament, to allay fears that east Europeans would take jobs in the West.