Abstract in English
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How you estimate, after almost five years of work, the results of your Commission?
This has been a unique period for the EU in energy. European integration began with energy, but it took fifty years to arrive where we are today – with a comprehensive and fully supported energy policy for Europe.
As part of this policy, the EU is now committed, first among the world, to binding and quantified goals: to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20%, rising to 30% pending an international agreement, to increase the share of renewable energy to 20% of energy demand and to cut expected energy demand by 20%, all by 2020. The new energy policy is also closely integrated with environmental policy, particularly on climate change.We now have the legislation in place to make these targets reality.
At the heart of EU policies we have put energy efficiency as it is: often the quickest, cheapest and easiest way to reduce emissions, increase competitiveness and increase security of supply. The Strategic Energy Technology Plan, launched in October 2007 will help to accelerate the development and deployment of low carbon technologies through concerted actions and strengthening efforts at European, national and regional level, and both public and private. In parallel, the EU's work to simulate the building of up to 12 demonstration plants for carbon dioxide capture and storage, as well as amendments to emissions trading rules and intensified international collaboration led by the EU, will help bring this potentially vital technology to maturity and to world markets. Recently, and in the second Strategic Energy Review, we have put more emphasis on energy security, and the need to promote a fully interconnected and sustainable European energy network. We are reviewing the TransEuropean Networks for Energy with a view to developing a new instrument to stimulate the investments our networks need.
We are also in the process of agreeing a revision to the oil stocks and emergency mechanism and will propose a revision to the 2004 Gas Security Directive shortly. We have also registered significant progress in our external energy relations. While we still have some way to go before Member States speak and act as though with a single voice, there is an increasing recognition that this is the best way to serve the interests of our citizens.
The EU has moved, within five years, to the forefront of international energy policy developments: the EU is now a model for the whole world in its energy and climate change policies. The International Partnership for Energy Efficiency Cooperation, initiated by the EU and agreed in June 2008, broke new ground in promoting international efforts on energy efficiency with the G20 Members now adhering to it. We are already pushing for a robust and effective climate agreement at Copenhagen later this year.
Last but not least, we have made strong advancements to open the internal market for gas and electricity to competition, creating a level playing field to make all the other measures possible.

Would you mind indicate any priority on which Europe should intensify its energy efforts? Which is the main urgency in agenda?
We need to move forward on all fronts. The various priorities are all very closely linked. In tackling climate change, we can also improve security of supply, as well as promote investments in innovative, sustainable and profitable investments which are good for the economy.
If I had to identify one area where we can move most easily with greatest and swiftest advantage, this would be energy efficiency. This is the sine qua non of energy policy. But we can, and have to, do much better!

For the future of the Europe the “20 20 20 climate change targets” seems to be crucial. Can the financial crisis and a possible long period of recession penalize those goals?
The climate challenge is indeed of crucial importance, both for Europe and for the world. The financial crisis should not be an excuse not to tackle climate change. That was also the strong message that came from the UN Climate Conference at Poznan in December last year and of the recent meeting of G-20 leaders.
If we do not act now to reduce our emissions, we will need to take more expensive actions in the future. The policies proposed in the 20-20-20 package will allow us to reach our targets in a fair and cost-effective manner. Increasing energy efficiency and use of renewable energy sources will also contribute to making the EU more resilient to international shocks and crisis situations. Finally, the horizon of the Climate and Energy Package is 2020: it is most likely that by then the numerous recovery measures will have paid off and the economy will be back on track. We cannot afford to have the current crisis, however deep and serious, make us shy away from the necessary change towards a sustainable low-carbon economy.

Recently the European Commission has proposed an energy package which gives a new boost to energy security in Europe. One of the main aspects was the investment in more efficient, low-carbon energy networks. Which are the priorities identified?
We have identified six projects in the Strategic Energy Review. These are:

ensuring independent supplies from the Caspian via a Southern Corridor,
completing the Mediterranean electricity and gas ring notably to better exploit the renewable energy around the Mediterranean,
connecting the Baltic area to the EU through new interconnections around the Baltic Sea,
making large-scale offshore wind a reality with a new dedicated network,
better connecting gas and power networks in Central and South East-Europe, and
increasing LNG capacity where needed.

I should also mention the Economic Recovery Plan which was endorsed by the European Council in March. This foresees to grant Community support to strategic energy projects. € 3.980 billion is earmarked for investment in gas and electricity interconnection projects, carbon capture and storage and offshore wind projects.

What about the recent enlargement of the EU? Which are the opportunities and the risks for the energy policy of EU? Broadly speaking, enlargement has confirmed the existing risks which the EU faces in terms of security of supply and climate change. However, it does present particular challenges. Many of the new Member States are largely dependent on a single supplier for gas and/or oil. The three Baltic states are virtually separate from the rest of the European Union in terms of energy infrastructure. And the energy links and interconnections between the new Member States and the "old" EU are largely lacking. These issues came to a head in January 2009, when the weaknesses in the energy supply system in the new Member States have been highlighted by the gas crisis. On the other hand, the larger European energy market which we now have is good news for security of supply, as it permits us, once we have the infrastructure, to have an even wider and diverse supply base. Several of the new Member States are seeking to diversify their supplies, and this is good for the whole of the EU.

Once more Europe talks about nuclear. Waiting for IV generation, which is the possible development in a short period of time?
It is expected that the Generation IV nuclear reactor technologies will be available for commercial operation after 2030. In the meantime, the Generation III light water reactors will be the basis for nuclear energy development or capacity replacement. Light water reactors, mainly Generation III designs, such as AREVA EPR, are expected to be predominant reactor types until the middle of the century. Generation III reactors are an evolution of Generation II reactors, which are used in around 80% of today's nuclear power plants. Generation III designs take advantage of several decades of operating experience of Generation II reactors with an optimization of their safety and economic performance.

Is nuclear power a (possible) solution for the problem of dependency in the oil & gas supply?
It is up to each Member State to decide what will be its energy mix and whether it will use nuclear energy or not. Of course, Member States' decisions regarding their energy mix have to be in line with the energy objectives set by the EU through its legislation, particularly in the fields of security of supply, competitiveness and sustainable development (reduction of CO2 emissions). Today, many Member States have reconsidered the nuclear energy option and its contribution towards a balanced energy mix, among them most recently Italy, Poland, Sweden and the United Kingdom. It is important that the highest level of safety, security and compliance with non-proliferation obligations is ensured. In this context, in November 2008, the European Commission adopted a revised proposal for a Directive setting up a Community framework for nuclear safety. In March this year, the Commission also adopted a Communication on nuclear non-proliferation.

What about the liberalization of energy markets? Do you think that the original concept for an open European energy sector was respected? And, are there some nations more virtuous than other?
The liberalization of energy markets is a complex process that spans over many years. Today the picture of the EU energy sector is very different from that of the early nineties, when the European Commission launched the first directives on price transparency and on transit of electricity. Now I think that many important results have been achieved, but our mission has not been accomplished yet. And yes, of course there are some nations more virtuous than others, but ranking countries is not the aim of the European Commission. The EU rules set minimum standards for the Member States: it is their choice to push the liberalization further. Those which do so will enjoy a more dynamic energy sector and ultimately a more efficient and competitive economy. This in turn will be a key instrument to achieve a fast and strong recovery from the current economic crisis.

A more solid collaboration between of Europe and Mediterranean Africa, in the energy themes. Only a dream or there is something in concrete terms?
Strengthened cooperation with the Middle East and Northern African countries is a core element of the EU Energy Security and Solidarity Action Plan. For the EU and its almost 500 million consumers the Middle East and North Africa, together with the Caspian Sea region and Sub Saharan Africa offer some important opportunities in terms of energy resources. Efficient use of those resources in the Southern Mediterranean is an important challenge. Many energy producing countries are relying on energy exports for them to meet crucial economic, technological and socio-demographic challenges. For North Africa and the Middle East it is equally important to ease dependency of conventional energy and introduce energy efficiency measures and renewable energy, such as wind and solar. Now, what does this imply? In my view, it implies that many of the energy challenges that we face in Europe and North Africa are the same. This obviously increases our leverage for improved cooperation. The Commission will present early next year a concrete plan for the establishment of a MEDRING, a Mediterranean Energy Ring for electricity and natural gas. It is the first time when the EU expands its energy infrastructure as far south as the Arabian Peninsula and the Libyan Desert. Other key projects that are essential for diversifying EU external energy supplies will follow. In addition, efforts will be given in Northern African countries to utilise the substantial potential of renewable energy resources. Also, the framework conditions for energy, regulations and tariffs, are improved in North Africa and the Middle East and brought in line with market mechanisms. This will have a positive impact on consumption and make it possible to generate high amounts of green electricity from solar and wind. I am absolutely convinced that we will be successful in closing the energy gap with North Africa and the broader Middle East.

Finally, what about the energy policy of Italy? How is considered in Brussels?
I understand that Italy is pursuing an active policy to increase energy efficiency and support to renewable sources. I fully share these objectives which are key elements of our energy policy at EU level. Finally Italy has announced ambitious programme for new nuclear plants and I understand that Italy plans plan to build four 1.6 GW reactors. I think it is a major challenge for a country which has abandoned nuclear some 20 years ago. Clearly, each Member State has this choice to decide the best energy mix according to its own circumstances. In any case, nuclear power contributes to approximately 14% of EU energy needs and covers one third of our electricity consumption. Nuclear is therefore a significant element of our energy mix in Europe and in this respect I will follow with interest the developments in this sector in Italy.

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