The European Parliament this week passed a report calling for a common EU policy on security of fuel supplies. In the light of successive cut-offs of fuel supplies from Russia, it is clear that some action is necessary. It is a mistake, however, to attempt to address the matter at EU level.
A major factor working against our interest is the fact that so much of our fuel transits third countries. We then become hostage to fortune when those countries fall foul of the Kremlin, and we quickly find ourselves facing rising costs and fuel shortages. Any legislative tool that seeks to address this problem should bring on board states such as Turkey, Ukraine, Georgia, and ideally China and the major Eurasian suppliers. To attempt to impose EU legislation on these countries is simply unrealistic.
We might be better served by a voluntary international instrument along the lines of Montreal Protocol, which quickly and drastically reduced global production of ozone depleting substances, and which was able, through imaginative means, to include developing nations as well as those at the top of the economic ladder.
Within the EU there is discord over fuel strategy, with various member states cutting bilateral deals with Moscow behind the backs of the others. This is a practice that the Kremlin seeks to encourage, and which it rewards as it works to divide western Europe. It is also the fact that the EU moves at a grindingly slow pace, and is an easy adversary to out-manouvre.
In this case, the EU cannot provide the solution to our problem, and we must either look to an international protocol, or task our government with pursuing bilateral deals, as is the case with the French and Germans.