Britain slams French proposals on EU energy

12th February 2007, Comments 0 comments

LONDON, Feb 12, 2007 (AFP) - French proposals to reform the EU's energy sector amount to maintaining the "status quo" and would stand in the way of greater competition and lower prices, a British minister warned Monday.

LONDON, Feb 12, 2007 (AFP) - French proposals to reform the EU's energy sector amount to maintaining the "status quo" and would stand in the way of greater competition and lower prices, a British minister warned Monday.

Noting that European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said that, with regard to the EU energy market, "the status quo is not an option," Trade and Industry Minister Alistair Darling wrote in a letter published in the Financial Times that the French proposals "amount to just that".

French Industry Minister Francois Loos said in an interview published Thursday in the Financial Times that the proposed separation of European energy producers and distribution networks would harm the EU's strategic interests.

Loos told the FT that he was planning to propose a system of "regulated unbundling," where an independent regulator would set prices for access to energy grids and would review investment decisions, similar to the system in place in France.

But the French proposal "distorts the market and inhibits much-needed investment in energy infrastructure," Darling wrote.

"It also stands headlong in the way of greater competition and cheaper prices."

EU countries are supposed to fully liberalize their gas and power markets by July 1, but several member states have been slow to implement preliminary steps and have the subject of legal action by the commission.

The commission believes that breaking the link between energy suppliers and the operators of distribution networks is required to introduce competition in energy markets.

According to Darling, an upcoming meeting of the Energy Council in Brussels on Thursday "is a critical opportunity for European Union energy ministers to forge ambitious reforms of European energy policy on behalf of consumers and the environment."

"It would be to the detriment of all our interests if they failed to grasp the opportunity."

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news, EU, Energy

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