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Commission presents parliament with Energy Charter Treaty exit plan

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Euractiv | 21 March 2024

Commission presents parliament with Energy Charter Treaty exit plan

By Olivia Gyapong

The European Commission’s plan to withdraw the bloc from the Energy Charter Treaty while allowing member states the right to remain if they choose was presented to Parliament on Thursday (21 March).

After several member states like Germany, Poland, and France withdrew from the treaty, member state representatives agreed to a collective EU withdrawal from the agreement on 6 March.

But the Commission requires Parliament’s consent to make the departure final, and Cristina Lobillo Borrero, DG ENER’s head of energy policy, said it’s counting on Parliament’s support to approve the EU’s withdrawal as soon as possible.

“We hope that the relevant committees, INTA and ITRE, will proceed with the consent swiftly,” Lobillo Borrero said during Thursday’s debate on the proposal.

The Energy Charter Treaty (ECT) is a pact between nearly 50 countries, originally designed to foster international cooperation on energy matters. Critics of the treaty, including climate activists, argue that it hampered the EU’s ability to reach its climate and energy targets, as it allows investors to gain legal protection for their fossil fuel investments.

Initially, the Commission foresaw that all member states would automatically leave the treaty at once, but the updated proposal would allow member states to remain if they wish.

Those who wish to remain, like Slovakia, argue that the ECT can be ‘modernised’ from within to address climate concerns, something the Commission previously called for before pursuing withdrawal.

If the ECT is modernised, then the Commission will work with member states that wish to remain on a plan to stay in the revised ECT. However, the Commission has yet to work out the details of this option.

“[Member states] cannot stay in the ECT unless this ECT is modernised and they are authorised to do so,” Lobillo Borrero said.

Lobillo Borrero believes the proposal can be approved by May.

Parliamentary divide

MEPs’ response to the Commission’s proposal was divided between the left and right.

“The EPP position has always been to welcome the efforts by the EU and its member states to drive the modernisation process of the ECT,” centre-right EPP MEP Jörgen Warborn said.

“The ideal solution would be that if the ECT modernisation is adopted, during the time that the EU notifies its withdrawal and the time that the withdrawal enters into force, then the EU could also benefit from the provisional application of the modernised ECT,” Warborn added.

Other MEPs were much less in favour of working out the ECT’s modernisation.

“The Greens, along with the majority of the Parliament, have called for a coordinated exit of the EU and its member states from this anachronistic treaty that is very difficult to change,” Finnish MEP Ville Niinistö said.

“Unfortunately, this plan has proven to be unfeasible as some member states still want to try to reform the treaty. Good luck with that.”

Niinistö was clear that Parliament’s priority should be supporting member states’ requests to consent to the EU’s withdrawal.

 source: Euractiv