Select Committee on European Scrutiny Thirty-Seventh Report

11 Trans-European Energy Networks



COM(06) 381

Commission Opinion laying down guidelines for trans-European energy networks (TEN-e) and repealing Decisions No. 96/391/EC and No. 1229/2003/EC.

Legal baseArticle 156 EC; co-decision; QMV
Document originated6 July 2006
Deposited in Parliament19 July 2006
DepartmentTrade and Industry
Basis of considerationEM of 27 July 2006
Previous Committee ReportNone, but see footnotes 23 and 25
To be discussed in CouncilNot applicable
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionNot cleared; further information requested


11.1 Article 154 of the EC Treaty requires the Community to contribute to the creation and development of transnational infrastructure networks (TENs) for energy, transport and telecommunications in order to help achieve the objectives of the internal market and the strengthening of economic and social cohesion. Articles 155 and 156 require the Community to establish, and the Council to adopt, guidelines for the objectives and priorities of TENs and to identify projects of common interest. It gives the Community power to support projects of common interest through feasibility studies, loan guarantees and subsidies. The present guidelines for the energy TENs are contained in Decisions No. 96/391/EC and 1229/2003/EC, and the current EU budget for such projects is about €20 million a year.

11.2 In December 2003, the Commission put forward a draft Decision[23] setting out proposed new guidelines for gas and electricity TENs and repealing the Decisions which contain the present guidelines. In particular, it distinguished between three types of projects for energy networks — "projects of common interest"; "priority projects", which would have priority for financial support from the TENs energy programme; and "projects of European interest", which would have a significant impact on cross-border transmission capacity — and it also made provision for the Commission to designate European Coordinators, each responsible for one or more priority projects.

11.3 When the previous Committee considered this in March 2004, it concluded that the proposed three-tier classification of projects was over-elaborate, and it shared the doubts expressed by the Government about the need for project Coordinators. It therefore decided to keep the document under scrutiny, and asked the Government to keep it informed of the progress of the negotiations and, in particular, of the response to the concerns which had been identified.

11.4 In June 2004, the Council reached a "general approach"[24] on a revised text which omitted the articles which had provided for Projects of European Interest and for the designation of Coordinators. This was followed in June 2005 by an amended Commission proposal,[25] which, following negotiations with the European Parliament, had incorporated only some minor amendments to the text the Council agreed in June 2004. Since we were told that this text was acceptable to the Government, we decided at our meeting on 13 July 2005 to clear it (and the original document, which it had superseded).

The current document

11.5 This document sets out the Commission's Opinion on the amendments proposed at the European Parliament's Second Reading of the draft Decision on 4 April 2006, which apparently reflect a compromise package agreed between the Parliament and the Council. The Commission has accepted all of these amendments, including those which re-introduce a designation of Projects of European Interest for those with a very significant cross-border dimension, and the designation of a European Co-ordinator for each project.

The Government's view

11.6 In his Explanatory Memorandum of 27 July 2006, the Minister of State for Energy at the Department of Trade and Industry (Malcolm Wicks) simply says that the UK — which broadly supports the development of Trans-European Networks — agrees with this compromise package of amendments.


11.7 Since our clearance of the original documents on this subject was explicitly linked to the earlier provisions on Projects of European Interest and the designation of European Coordinators having been omitted, we find it strange that the Government should now have agreed to a document which re-instates these, particularly as it had itself earlier expressed reservations on these aspects on the proposal. We are all the more surprised that it should have done so without offering any justification for this change in approach, and we would be glad if the Minister could now provide an explanation. In the meantime, we will continue to hold this latest document under scrutiny.

23   (25366) 6218/04; see HC 42-xvi (2003-04), para 3 (31 March 2004) and HC 34-ii (2005-06), para 13 (13 July 2005). Back

24   An agreement on the text before its submission to the European Parliament. Back

25   (26651) 10010/05; see HC 34-ii (2005-06), para 13 (13 July 2005). Back

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