Ahead of next week's European Council, the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, and 11 other European leaders have written an open letter to Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, and José Barroso, President of the European Commission, suggesting which eight areas the European Union should tackle as a priority to encourage growth. Energy is one area highlighted.
On 20 February the British Prime Minister, David Cameron; the Dutch Prime, Minister Mark Rutte; the Italian Prime Minister, Mario Monti; the Prime Minister of Estonia, Andrus Ansip; the Latvian Prime Minister, Valdis Dombrovskis; the Prime Minister of Finland, Jyrki Katainen; the Irish Taoiseach, Enda Kenny; the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, Petr Nečas; the Sloval Prime Minister, Iveta Radičová; the Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy; the Prime Minister of Sweden, Fredrik Reinfeldt; and the Polish Prime Minister, Donald Tusk sent a letter to Herman Van Rompuy and José Barroso calling for efforts to focus on specific growth areas. The stakes are high, the letter said, and action in these areas is long overdue.
“We meet in Brussels at a perilous moment for economies across Europe. Growth has stalled. Unemployment is rising. Citizens and businesses are facing their toughest conditions for years. As many of our major competitor economies grow steadily out of the gloom of the recent global crisis, financial market turbulence and the burden of debt renders the path to recovery in Europe much harder to climb,” warned the prime ministers.
The 11 European leaders are hoping that their letter will encourage the European Council to focus on eight clear priorities to strengthen growth. These include action to "bring the single market to its next stage of development, by reinforcing governance and raising standards of implementation”; “efforts to create a truly digital single market by 2015”; a redoubling of the EU’s commitment to innovation by establishing the European Research Area; a greater commitment to innovation by establishing the European Research Area; a sustained effort to reduce the burden of EU regulation; acting nationally and, respecting national competences, collectively to promote well-functioning labour markets which deliver employment opportunities and, crucially, promote higher levels of labour market participation among young people, women and older workers; and taking steps to build a robust, dynamic and competitive financial services sector that creates jobs and provides vital support to citizens and businesses.
With services now accounting for almost four fifths of our economy the leaders also warn that there is much that needs to be done to open up services markets on the scale that is needed. “We must act with urgency, nationally and at the European level, to remove the restrictions that hinder access and competition and to raise standards of implementation and enforcement to achieve mutual recognition across the single market,” they say in the letter.
But most interesting for the energy sector, is the point they make regarding delivering on their commitment to establish a genuine, efficient and effective internal market in energy by 2014.
“All member States should implement fully the Third Energy Package, swiftly and in recognition of agreed deadlines. Energy interconnection should be enhanced to help underpin security of supply,” they say. “Urgent action is also needed, nationally and where appropriate collectively, to remove planning and regulatory barriers to investment in infrastructure to release the potential of the single market and support green growth and a low-emissions economy”. This would clearly represent a boost for renewable energy.
“Each of us recognises that the plan we propose requires leadership and tough political decisions. But the stakes are high and action in many of these areas is long overdue. With bold and effective action and strong political will we can recover Europe’s dynamism and put our economies back on the path to economic recovery. We urge you and the European Council to answer our peoples’ call for reform and to help restore their confidence in Europe’s ability to deliver strong and sustainable growth,” the leaders ended.
[Inset: New European Council building to be opened in 2014]