The European Energy Union: Green Hope or Dark Future?

Mathias Haldrup Stryhn Sandum & Rikke Sophie Larsen

Student thesis: Master thesis


Energy security is one of the biggest issues in the 21st century. Within the European Union (EU), the member states have been unable to achieve fully integrated cooperation in this area. Ever since 1951, when the European Coal and Steel Community was created, energy policy has played a central role, and there have been several attempts made to achieve further integration. In 1957, The Six laid the foundation for the Rome Treaties, which established the European Communities (ECC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (EAEC). However, it was not until 2007, with the signing of the Lisbon Treaty, that energy entered as a policy area in an EU treaty. In the 1970s, the member states experienced a demand to secure the energy supply, when enormous price increases on oil imports from the Middle East resulted in economic challenges in the ECC, who at the time imported around 95 % of their oil from the Middle East. In the 1980s, the European Commission tried to create a common market for energy, but was met with scepticism from the member states which all had their own national interest at heart, and that made it difficult to agree on how such a common market should be constructed. The focus on energy continued, with the development of the European Union. In the 1990s, increasing focus was put on the challenges associated with climate changes. With the adoption of the Kyoto protocol, the EU member states began to search for common solutions in order to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gasses. However, the member states’ different energy mixes have proven to be a challenge, especially since the Eastern member states rely heavily on fossil fuels in their electricity production and industries. This means that the conversion to more CO₂ friendly fuels will be long and expensive. However, the EU has adopted clear climate goals for all the member states for 2020, 2030 and 2050. In April 2014, then Polish prime minister and now current President of the European Council, Donald Tusk proposed a vision for a European Energy Union, which would create more Side 2 af 115 solidarity amongst the member states against Russian influence. In 2015, Russia was the biggest exporter of gas to the EU, accounting for 34 % of all gas imported by the member states. For most Eastern member states, the import is much bigger, and it has become a growing concern that Russia could use gas as a weapon against the EU. This is why Tusk and Poland see the European dependency on Russian gas as a security concern, which needs to be on top of the political agenda. Shortly after Tusk’s visions, the European Commission presented their proposal for a European Energy Union. This proposal consisted of 5 dimensions, which shall secure the European energy security and create a common market for energy, which will be more competitive. In addition, an Energy Union should furthermore focus on green technology and sustainability. As of now, there is not much competition on the different energy markets in Europe and this is a problem for the EU, which is the world’s largest energy importer. However, creating a common Energy Union with 28 different member states with vast differences in their national energy mix is not easy. Denmark is a pioneer country when it comes to using green energy and has for many years focused on establishing and maintaining itself as a sustainable energy country, and is therefore an advocate for a European energy union. The European Commission’s proposal for an energy union with a common market for energy would help secure that Denmark would be able to sell surplus energy produced by e.g. windmills. Furthermore, Denmark will be able to capitalize on exporting green technology and experience, since other member states will need green solutions in order to live up to the climate goals set up by the EU. Poland is especially dependent on coal. However, it is a challenge for the country that the EU has such ambitious climate goals since Poland’s large use of fossil fuels emits a lot of CO2. This will mean that a transformation to live up to these goals will be tough for the national economy, but also for the hundreds of thousands employed in the Polish coal industry. However, Poland is still an advocate for an energy union due to the country’s huge concern regarding the EU’s dependency on Russian gas. It is this fear that are at the centre of the Polish vision for a European energy union, where Poland wants the EU member states to stand together against Russia and find alternatives to Russian gas.

EducationsMA in International Business Communication (Intercultural Marketing), (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2017
Number of pages116