EU awaits Commission shake-out
European heads of state vowed to press on towards a deal on a 2030 energy and climate policy framework, as Brussels waited to assess the impact of a revamped European Commission under a new president.
The 28-nation EU's leaders pledged to move towards "an energy union with forward-looking climate policy" at their Brussels meeting.
They backed efforts to speed up the creation of a single European energy market, to develop infrastructure and diversify supply, according to a strategic agenda signed at their summit.
However, the meeting was overshadowed by the row over the appointment of Jean-Claude Juncker as the next president of the European Commission – a move strongly opposed by UK Prime Minister David Cameron.
Unlike current Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso, Juncker will not arrive in the role with a reputation for being green.
However, he is no climate sceptic, having supported strong environmental policies in the past, including the EU's emissions trading scheme.
The veteran politician, former Prime Minister of Luxembourg, said in his manifesto he is committed to forging "a new European energy union", diversifying energy sources and making the EU "the world number one in renewable energies".
One of his first tasks will be to pick the new commissioners to be responsible for leading the EU's main departments, from a shortlist nominated by member states.
His selection for the energy and climate portfolios will likely set the level of ambition the Commission shows towards its renewables and energy efficiency goals.
Although nothing will be settled for some weeks, several potential outcomes are already being discussed in Brussels.
One would see incumbent energy commissioner Günther Oettinger keep his role – he has already been backed by the German government to remain as an EU commissioner, although not necessarily in that post.
Sources in Brussels have also speculated over a potential amalgamation of the EC's energy and climate change briefs under a single commissioner.
The EU leaders debated an energy-security strategy and climate and energy policies for beyond 2020, afterwards declaring that those issues would be among the bloc's top priorities for the next five years.
The Commission proposed in January to adopt a binding goal to cut greenhouse gases by 40% by 2030, and an EU-wide renewables target of 27%.
The renewables industry has pointed out that a more ambitious 30% renewables target would, when combined with more energy efficiency, reduce the EU's gas imports by three times more than the proposed 27% target.
The leaders agreed to "mobilise all efforts to meet an October deadline for reaching a deal on the 2030 climate and energy framework" that they set at their March meeting, according to a statement on the EU website.
The five-year EU strategy, adopted alongside a political statement on the 2030 package, also underscored the need to complete the single market for energy, to find ways to increase the EU's bargaining power, and to make the bloc's gas market more transparent.