TALLINN - Two members of the European Parliament from Estonia, Toomas Hendrik Ilves and Andres Tarand, have voiced skepticism about the European Union's readiness to form a common energy policy given the fact that member states' interests in the sector vary widely and frequently collide. In Ilves' opinion, real hope for a common energy policy could come about only by some deeper crisis or unexpected step by Russia, such as making the price of natural gas dependent on the removal of visa requirements.
Speaking at an energy security hearing of the standing foreign affairs committee in Estonia's parliament, which gave an overview of prevailing views in the EU's energy policy, Tarand found that the development of an integrated Baltic energy system joined with Scandinavian countries, or the so-called Baltic Ring, is more likely to see the light of day than a common energy system for all 25 countries (soon to be 27) in the bloc. Ilves noted that Russia uses its energy resources for foreign policy ends, which is inherent in the planned gas pipeline to Germany. The turning off of Ukraine's gas taps in December finally opened Europe's eyes to this, he said. Another danger sign is that Russia is buying up the transit networks of CIS countries and seeking to do the same in England and other EU countries. The bloc was for a long time reluctant to acknowledge the risks lying in such activity.
"Russia has begun to use energy like a weapon similar to that of the Cold War. As the nuclear weapon is no longer a suitable instrument of politics it's been replaced by energy now," he said. Estonia is one of five countries that is 100 percent dependent on Russian natural gas, therefore it is high time for this Baltic state to think about alternative energy resources, Ilves said. Both Ilves and Tarand highlighted the more extensive use of wind and other renewable sources of energy whose wider utilization should, in their opinion, be supported by legislative means. The hearing was the third in a series on Parliament's agenda for this spring and fall.
The panel earlier heard representatives of the Economy and Communications and Foreign ministries on the same subject. The committee has also commissioned an energy policy study that will be carried out by the Estonian Foreign Policy Institute. According to the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Centrist Enn Eesmaa, the aim of the hearings is to help the panel form its positions on energy and then present them to the government.