Poland wants to take an agreement from the EU Council to the court.

It has been two months, since Malta has taken over the EU Council Presidency. But in the climate and energy policies, things started spinning only in late February.

At the first meeting of energy ministers, Member States declared support for the “Clean Energy for All Europeans” package introduced by the European Commission in November 2016. The focus of the Maltese Presidency: energy efficiency.

The first meeting of environment ministers, however, lacked the consensus. The EU Council voted its general approach to the reform of the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS). The problem: nine countries voted against and Poland considers taking it to the court.

General approach on energy efficiency

Energy efficiency seems to be Valletta’s single most important priority within the Energy Union.

As part of the last year’s legislative package, the Commission did propose an ambitious 2030 target: a 30-percent increase compared to 1990. It is higher than the figured agreed by the European Council in 2014: “at least 27 percent”.
The Member States have to find a common position before negotiation with the lawmakers in the European Parliament.

“A key element during the Maltese Presidency semester will be to commence and advance discussions on the Energy Efficiency proposals with the intention of reaching a general approach,” the programme reads referring to the review of the Directives on energy efficiency and energy performance of buildings.

A shift away from energy security

This is a clear shift away from the focus on energy security by the previous Slovak Presidency.

But the evolution is logical. Bratislava took forward two energy security files – on the ex-ante control of intergovernmental agreements in the field of energy and on security of gas supplies. The Slovaks concluded the former file in a trialogue with the European Parliament, a deal approved by the plenary session this week.

The latter file was negotiated by the Slovaks in the EU Council and it is now subject to a trialogue steered by the Maltese.

Regarding energy policy, Valletta will handle another important trialogue: on the energy labelling of products. Prioritizing energy efficiency, the Maltese should do better than the Slovaks.

High cost of an ETS compromise

The ETS reform for 2021 – 2030 is another hot potato, where Slovakia failed to reach an agreement – inside the EU Council. It quoted “lack of political will”.

The current Presidency did reach a compromise at the February meeting of environment ministers. But its cost is high.

The general approach to the overhaul of the emissions market was supported by 19 Member States, the 9 remaining being against.

Moreover, Poland announced it is considering challenging the issue before the European Court of Justice. According to EurActiv.com, Warsaw felt “cheated” by the compromise deal, because it interferes with each state’s right to its own energy mix. Poland is heavily dependent on coal power plants, whose emissions will cost much more under the revised ETS.

No specific objective on the difficult file

The Presidency defied the Polish stance, responding that “the Council has not adopted a formal act”. No formal decision was taken, said Valletta, therefore “there is no basis for claiming that the wrong rules were used.”

Anyways, the ETS legislation does not require unanimity, only qualified majority, which was informally reached on the occasion.

The Parliament has already voted its position on the ETS reform, a different one than the Council.

Malta did not set up a specific objective regarding this difficult file. The programme only says “the Presidency will seek to make concrete and substantial progress.”

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The project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement No 730882.

Supported by a grant from Norway. Co-financed from the Slovak State Budget. Program SK08 – CBC – Slovakia – Ukraine: Cooperation across the Border.