Amendment to the EU gas directive in limbo

Source: Heren

2018/11/08

LONDON (ICIS)--A year after the European Commission proposed to amend the gas directive by extending its authority to all pipelines between the EU and third countries, the file is still in limbo.

The pace at which this file is processed in the council depends on the country presiding it. The file is unlikely to be pushed forward until the end of 2019, according to comments ICIS received from representatives of the next two countries taking the rotating presidency of the EU council.

In January 2019, Vienna will hand the presidency over to Bucharest. Although, on paper, Romania shows eagerness to push forward the inter-institutional negotiations regarding the amendment, in practice its presidency is likely to be less ambitious.

Romania “intends to continue the legislative activity on the dossier […] building on the progress made by the Austrian presidency,” the Romanian foreign ministry told ICIS in late October.

This means the file is likely to remain in limbo throughout the Romanian presidency as no notable progress was made so far under the Austrian mandate.

Should Romania also fail to have the council adopt a common approach on this amendment, the file could once again be put on the back burner during the Finnish mandate until the end of 2019.

Even though Finland supports in principle the proposed amendment, it is against its extension to the EU countries’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), as it would contravene the UN Convention on the law of the seas, senior adviser on energy for the Finnish foreign ministry Matti Lassila told ICIS.

Finland agreed for the Russian producer Gazprom-led Nord Stream 2 pipeline to cross its EEZ in April and it intends to keep full control of this zone.

The amendment as it currently stands does not meet Finland’s objective, as it extends the gas directive to offshore pipelines crossing EU countries’ territorial waters and/or EEZ.

Asked whether this file would be treated as a priority on the Finnish agenda, Lassila said: “Finland will advance the file like any other legislative file tabled at that time.”

Proposed amendment

After the commission adopted the proposal to amend the directive in early November 2017, the file was passed on to the European parliament.

The parliament endorsed the proposed amendment in April 2018 and appointed its energy committee to start inter-institutional negotiations between the commission, the parliament and the council.

The council has not yet adopted a position on the amendment, an EU official told ICIS in late October.

No date has been set for the start of inter-institutional negotiations, both the council and the energy committee confirmed to ICIS.

The parliament’s next elections in late May 2019 could be a game changer in the inter-institutional negotiations.