Gas crisis triggers EU to pump billions into energy projects
The European Commission’s proposals are particularly aimed at creating energy independence from Russia.Brussels -- The European Commission has unveiled proposals to invest 3.5 billion euros (4.6 billion dollars) into energy projects, with many focused on cutting European dependence on Russian gas.
The money will be drawn from unspent funds in the EU budget and is part of a wider 5 billion euro package aimed at reviving Europe's recession-hit economies.
The commission's proposals, made public on Wednesday, call in particular for 1.025 billion euros to be invested in infrastructure that will improve gas interconnections between EU states, with 700 million euros for inter-European electricity links.
A further 500 million euros will go towards offshore wind generation projects and 1.25 billion will go to carbon capture and storage projects.
Among the selected projects is the controversial Nabucco pipeline, which will bring Caspian Sea gas to Europe in a route that bypasses Russia and Ukraine. The pipeline will receive 250 million euros.
Reducing the EU's dependence on Russian gas piped through Ukraine has become a top priority for the bloc since a standoff between Moscow and Ukraine at the start of the year left many countries without gas in the dead of winter.
"We need to learn the lessons of the recent gas crisis and invest heavily in energy," said European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso in a statement.
In addition to the 3.5 billion euros foreseen for energy projects, the commission proposed that another 1 billion euros be invested in extending and upgrading high-speed Internet infrastructure in rural communities.
A further 500 million euros will go towards projects addressing climate change, renewable energy, water management, biodiversity and dairy restructuring in rural communities.
Spokesman Johannes Laitenberger said that the commission hoped EU leaders will approve the proposals at a summit in March.