EU energy support programme blocked

Ministers fail to agree budget for framework programme

EU energy ministers yesterday failed to agree a budget for a new framework of energy policies which could give a boost to EU support for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.

The five-year energy framework programme is intended to wrap existing EU support schemes into one bundle. Although lower than the Ecu213m proposed by the European Commission, a presidency compromise proposal on the table yesterday of Ecu180m could still mean more money for energy support schemes than they have at present.

Prior to the ministerial meeting Council working groups pencilled in sums of Ecu74m for the Altener II renewable energy support scheme and Ecu64m for the Save energy efficiency scheme. Last week, presidency and Council sources expressed optimism that informal agreement would be reached on the basis of these figures.

In particular, this would have meant Altener II getting around Ecu30m over its first two years (1998/9), the same as originally proposed by the European Commission and well over the Ecu22m agreed by energy ministers last December to protests from the European Parliament.

In the event, the dossier was taken down the agenda at the last minute when it became clear that some member states felt that Ecu180m for the whole programme was too high. According to one national official, the Netherlands, France and Sweden led the way in pressing for lower funding, arguing that bundling the programmes would lead to synergies which would enable more to be done with less money.

Presidency and other EU sources today played down the significance of the set back, saying that countries remained positive about the proposed framework programme and that agreement would be reached at a future Council. They also stressed that the Council could not have reached a formal agreement on the programme at this stage because it is still awaiting an opinion from the European Parliament.

Follow Up:
Council of Ministers, tel: +32 2 285 6111.

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