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SOTEU2022: Securing Europe’s green ideals

On 14 September, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivered her third ‘State of the Union’ address during the plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

With this blogpost, Dr2 Consultants aims to shed light on some of the main challenges and upcoming legislative files presented during the State of the European Union namely in the field of energy, sustainability and digital.

State of the Union 2022

Dressed in the colors of the Ukrainian flag, President von der Leyen began by looking back at the EU’s reaction to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, stating that the EU should be proud of its united, determined and immediate response. Reference to the war was a reoccurring pattern in von der Leyen’s speech as she pledged continued European solidarity with Ukraine.

The President outlined the Commission’s priorities in response to the increasing energy prices and difficult economic situation for citizens and businesses. The Commission’s plans underline the EU’s commitment to move forward with the green and digital transition by means of new investments and legislative proposals.

The Commission President announced measures to reform the European electricity market and tackle soaring energy prices. The Commission aims to propose a cap on revenues of companies that produce electricity at a low cost, such as nuclear and renewable energy aimed to support vulnerable households. Moreover, President von der Leyen revealed actions to decouple gas and electricity prices and establish a more representative natural gas price benchmark that would reflect the switch to liquified natural gas (LNG).

We have to decouple the dominance of gas on the electricity market” to ensure consumers “reap the benefits of low-cost renewables” – President von der Leyen

Notably, the Commission has decided to continue the discussion on the price cap on gas due to diverging views amongst Member States. Moreover, a task force has been set up to negotiate deals with gas suppliers, such as Norway. At the same time, von der Leyen emphasized the need for an energy transition towards renewable energy. She announced new investments in hydrogen, which could be a “game changer for Europe”, through both the establishment of a European Hydrogen Bank supporting the purchase of hydrogen and investments up to €3 billion in the hydrogen market.

Furthermore, apart from Russia’s manipulation of the energy market, President von der Leyen highlighted the impact climate change has had on EU energy prices. Therefore, she emphasized the need to reach ambitious global deals for nature and the climate at the UN Biodiversity Conference in Montreal and COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh.

While the 2021 State of the Union mainly focused on the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s address put more emphasis on the recovery plan and announced more flexible economic policies and simpler tax rules for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). In addition, to address companies’ liquidity issues, the Commission aims to amend rules on collateral and limit intra-day price volatility. In this regard, in October, the Commission will also amend the temporary state aid framework to allow for the provision of state guarantees. Moreover, von der Leyen acknowledged the reality of higher public debt. Therefore, new fiscal rules must allow for strategic investment. In October, the European Commission will present new ideas for sustainable economic governance. These proposals must ensure more freedom to invest, together with more scrutiny, and more ownership for Member States.

Von der Leyen emphasized the importance of European independence in raw materials, stating “Raw material will fuel our green and digital future.” To replicate the success of last year’s announcement of the Chips Act, von der Leyen announced that the Commission will invest in Important Projects of Common European Interest (IPCEI) by setting up a new European Sovereignty Fund (ESF).

Finally, she called for a new European Convention, following the Conference on the Future of Europe. She also expressed that 2023 should be the European Year of Skills since “the lack of staff is a major challenge for European companies”. Additionally, the Commission President showed support for Macron’s idea of a European Political Community to strengthen European democracy, which together with a new Defense for Democracy Pact should safeguard democracy from malign foreign threats.

Reactions by Members of the European Parliament

After the State of the European Union, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) reacted to the Commission President’s speech.

Manfred Weber, Leader of the European People’s Party, welcomed the Commission’s response to tackle energy prices, but also stressed the need to include the European Parliament in the decision-making process. Furthermore, he criticized Germany’s decision to stop producing nuclear energy and called for better connection between Spain and the rest of the European gas grid. He also added that the EU must speed up trade deals with reliable partners, specifically calling on the ratification of the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).

On behalf of the Socialists & Democrats, MEP Iratxe García Pérez called for reinforcement of social policies, reform of the energy market, reform of taxation and economic governance, and acceleration of the green transition. She also expressed support for a price cap on gas and a tax on windfall profits of energy companies to help families and businesses pay their bill.

Renew Europe President, MEP Stéphane Séjourné expressed his support for a cap on gas import prices and the energy shield. In addition, he called for joint purchase of energy, investment in renewables and renovation of buildings. Furthermore, MEP Séjourné stressed the need to reduce the EU’s dependence on other countries for food, raw materials, health, digital technology and infrastructure.

Speaking on behalf of the Greens/EFA, MEP Ska Keller called for measures to tackle skyrocketing food and energy prices, especially to protect the most vulnerable households. She welcomed the Commission’s proposal to redistribute windfall profits, while also stating that the only way to end the EU’s energy dependency is to accelerate the transition towards renewable energy.

What’s next?

On 18 October, the Commission will present its work program for 2023, outlining upcoming priorities and both legislative as well as non-legislative proposals.

These upcoming policies present an opportunity for your organization to get involved in EU decision making and to make sure your voice is heard. Want to know more? Don’t hesitate to contact Dr2 Consultants’ team of policy experts who will continue to monitor these legislative proposals!

European Commission presents “Save Gas for a Safe Winter” plan

On 20 July, the European Commission presented its emergency plan to ensure energy security for citizens and industry by saving gas in view of the upcoming winter. The proposal follows months of disruptions in energy supplies, affecting already 12 Member States across the EU.

The EU has already taken actions to reduce its dependency from Russian fossil fuels and ensure energy security, notably with the publication of the REPowerEU Plan in May, the revision of the Gas Storage Regulation and the supply agreements with international partners. With the publication of the “Save Gas for a Safe Winter” emergency plan, another step has been taken to reduce gas demand and prepare the EU for possible further disruptions in winter.

Communication on Save Gas for a Safe Winter

The Communication builds on months of gas supply interruptions and cuts of gas flow via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline (e.g., 10-day outage in July and flow reduced to 40% capacity). In this light, the Commission underlines that acting now on reducing gas demand would ensure sufficient gas storage levels (80%) and reduce economic negative impact and market pressure.

Takeaway

The proposed measures by the Commission are in line with the recent recommendations of the International Energy Agency, such as bringing down the household electricity demand by setting cooling standards and controls, and minimizing gas use in the power sector by temporarily increasing coal and oil-fired generation or by accelerating the deployment of low-carbon sources such as nuclear power.

Council Regulation on Coordinated Demand Reduction Measures for Gas

The Regulation sets a voluntary target for all Member States to reduce gas demand by 15% between 1 August 2022 and 31 March 2023. However, in case of an exceptional supply disruption, the Commission could declare a ‘Union Alert’ imposing a compulsory gas demand reduction. This will make the 15% target mandatory.

Takeaway

The package is based on the solidarity principle since some Member States (e.g. Germany) are more depended on Russian gas than others (e.g. Spain, Portugal). However, the possibility of imposing a mandatory target to cut gas use by 15% in case of supply emergency has already raised criticism from some Member States. For instance, Spain already indicated it ‘cannot support the gas usage proposal without consultations’. EU Energy Ministers will discuss the proposal during the informal Energy Council on 26 July. The approval of the Council Regulation will require a qualified majority (at least 15 Member States).

A European Gas Demand Reduction Plan

To achieve the 15% gas reduction target, the Commission’s Action Plan provides Member States with guidelines to protect households, essential users and industries from a gas shortage and help them to reduce gas demand. The main recommendations focus on the switch toward other kind of fuels (renewables but also coal, oil and nuclear), reduce heating and cooling in buildings (e.g., public awareness raising campaigns) and incentivize reduction by industry (e.g., interruptible contracts).

Takeaway

The use of coal, oil or liquified natural gas could risk putting under threat the overall long-term EU climate goals and the phase out of fossil fuels. The Commission underlines that the fuel switching measures should be designated in a way that these are temporary and do not result in a long-term fossil lock-in or endanger the decarbonization objectives of the ‘Fit for 55’ package. However, no guarantees have been put in place to ensure this.

Amendments to State aid Temporary Crisis Framework

The targeted amendments will allow Member States to set up schemes for investments in renewable energy, diversify energy supplies and expand the types of support that they can give to companies in need. For instance, state aid could support companies affected by mandatory or voluntary gas curtailment and support them for fuel switching to more polluting fossil fuels subject to energy efficiency efforts. In addition, Member States could provide aid to fill gas storages and to support companies transporting goods to and from Ukraine.

Takeaway

The relaxation of state aid measures will strive to simplify tender and permitting procedures and will increase state aid limits substantially. This will notably benefit renewable energy projects linked to the implementation of the REPowerEU objectives, such as projects that will generate clean energy, increase energy efficiency or decarbonize industrial processes.

Council of the EU adopts its position on key ‘Fit for 55’ legislation

The end of June has seen major breakthroughs in the negotiations among EU Member States on the legislation part of the ‘Fit for 55’ package. In the last days of its presidency over the Council of the EU, the French managed to reach agreement on various energy and environmental legislation that are part of the climate package, namely: Renewable Energy Directive (REDIII), Energy Efficiency Directive (EED), the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS), Effort Sharing Regulation (ESR) and the CO2 emissions performance standards for cars and vans. Following the adoption of the respective General Approaches, the Council of the EU is now ready to start the negotiations with the European Parliament and the European Commission.

With the ‘Fit for 55’ initiative, the Commission aims to make the EU the world’s first climate-neutral continent by 2050 and achieve 55% emissions reduction by 2030. Ever since its publication less than a year ago, on 14 July 2021, the legislative package has caused heated debates among the co-legislators and dominated the policy agenda. Given how much is at stake for the green transition, especially in the context of the ongoing energy crisis, Dr2 Consultants aims to shed some light on the Member States’ position and the impact it will have on the businesses across the EU.

Accelerate the clean energy transition

On 27 June, the energy ministers of the 27 EU Member States reached an agreement to decarbonize the EU energy system by supporting the deployment of renewables and improving the efforts in energy efficiency and energy savings. The proposed revisions of the REDIII and EED are closely linked with the EU’s purpose to become independent from Russian energy supply, reducing energy consumption and fast-tracking the uptake of renewable energy.

The General Approach on the revision of the REDIII sets a binding EU-level target of 40% of energy from renewable sources in the overall energy mix by 2030. This objective falls short of the 45% target that the European Commission proposed on 18 May as part of the REPowerEU plan, which is also supported by the European Parliament. In addition to the EU-wide target, the Council of the EU agreed on sector-specific sub-targets for transport, industry, buildings as well as heating and cooling. Despite the increased flexibility compared to the European Commission’s proposal, several Member States underlined the need to take national differences into account in order to achieve the sub-targets and to leave room for maneuver for Member States in order to choose the most cost-effective energy mix in their countries.

Fit for 55 services

With regards to the General Approach on the EED, Member States agreed to contribute to achieving the reduction targets of 36% for final energy consumption and 39% for primary energy consumption by 2030. They will therefore have to take into account these targets in their national energy and climate plans (NECPs) setting indicative national contributions and trajectories. Specifically, Member States will need to ensure savings of 1.1% of annual final energy consumption from 2024, 1.3% from 2026, and 1.5% from 2028 to 2030.

Although the Member States stay aligned with the Commission’s proposals, they are still far away from the renewable energy targets as outlined by the Commission in its recently published REPowerEU plan. Moreover, Member States have introduced additional flexibility in the text. The European Parliament, which is scheduled to vote on the REDIII and EED during its Plenary session in September, is expected to adopt a more ambitious position. As the positions of the co-legislators are expected to diverge significantly, this might delay the informal Trilogue negotiations and as such, cause uncertainty for businesses.

Reduce carbon emissions to become a climate-neutral continent

On 29 June, following almost 16 hours of negotiations, the Member States adopted their General Approach on emissions reduction related legislation.

Following intense, behind closed doors negotiations on the EU ETS proposal, Member States agreed to retain the 61% emissions reduction target by 2030, to include a one-off reduction of the overall emissions ceiling by 117 million allowances and to increase the annual reduction rate of the cap by 4.2% per year. Moreover, the Council supported the inclusion of maritime shipping emissions in the EU ETS as well as the creation of a separate ETS for buildings and road transport sectors from 2027. As regards aviation, free allowances will be phased out gradually by 2027, while the General Approach proposes that operators using sustainable aviation fuels could receive free emissions allowances as compensation for higher prices.

To address emissions from sectors not covered by the ETS (e.g. agriculture and waste), the Council of the EU’s position on Effort Sharing Regulation supports an EU-level greenhouse gas emissions reduction target of 40% compared to 2005. The General Approach includes also reference to the need to converge all together towards the objectives and the possibility to adjust linear emissions trajectories in 2025.

Finally, as regards the proposed revision of the CO2 emissions for new cars and vans, the Member States agreed to introduce a 100% CO2 emissions reduction target by 2035 for new cars and vans – effectively phasing out the production of new combustion engines – and to raise the targets to 55% for cars and to 50% for vans by 2030.

The climate ambition to reduce net emissions would require not only investments in decarbonization but also financial support for most vulnerable households and SMEs to cope with the impact of higher carbon pricing. In this regard, the Council agreed to establish a Social Climate Fund with a maximum budget of €59 billion over the period 2027-2032, and it will coincide with the entry into force of the EU ETS for road transport and buildings.

The above key legislations are expected to shake up business operations in various sectors, as new obligations will be introduced to tackle carbon emissions and new sectors such as road transport and buildings will be included in the EU’s carbon trading market. Moreover, the internal-combustion-engine (ICE) ban for cars and vans by 2035 is a historic decision that will present a big challenge for the automotive industry. The upcoming trialogue negotiations with the European Parliament on these files will most likely focus on how to mitigate the potential negative effects of these measures on low-income households, such as higher energy prices.

 What to expect next?

On 1 July, the Czech Republic took over the rotating Council of the EU Presidency from France. Hence, the Czech Presidency will be the leading negotiator during Trilogue negotiations with the European Parliament. Dr2 Consultants had the possibility to discuss the energy priorities of the Czech Presidency beforehand with Mr. Petr Binhack, Chairman of the Energy Working Group for the Czech Presidency of the Council of the EU during an insightful webinar. The Czech Presidency would aim to close several of these Fit for 55 files, prioritizing the ones focusing on the transition towards energy efficiency and renewable energy, and achieve the short-term goals set by the REPowerEU plan.

Dr2 Consultants advises businesses to pay particular attention to the interinstitutional negotiations as the European Parliament’s starting position on these files aims at raising the ambition of the Fit for 55 package compared to the European Commission’s proposal, and especially, to the Council of the EU’s mandate.

Are you interested in what impact the Fit for 55 files will have on your company? Over the last years, Dr2 Consultants has built up a track record in advising a broad range of transport clients in navigating the EU ecosystem. Would you like to know more about what the ‘Fit for 55 Package’ means for your organization? Feel free to reach out to us or visit our Fit for 55 webpage.

We also invite you to stay up to date via Dr2 Consultants’ weekly Fit for 55 policy updates (read the latest update here and subscribe here).

Dr2 Consultants hosts third webinar on the EU Data Act with representatives of the EU Parliament and the Council

Following the publication of the EU Data Act in February 2022, Dr2 Consultants hosted a series of three Breakfast Webinars to discuss the impact of the proposal on European businesses. The last edition took place on June 16 and hosted institutional representatives to discuss the views of the European Parliament and the Council. The event was moderated by Cathy Kremer, Senior Consultant at Dr2 Consultants.

Ms. Angelica Petrov, Policy Advisor on cybersecurity and digital policy to MEP Alin Mituța, shadow rapporteur on the EU Data Act for Renew in the leading ITRE committee, and Ms. Anna-Liisa Pärnalaas, Counsellor for Digital and Cyber Affairs at the Permanent Representation of Estonia to the EU, were invited to shed light on the Data Act from an institutional perspective. Input gathered from the previous two webinars (first and second) on the EU Data Act and its impact on EU competition and sustainability and smart mobility goals fed into the discussion with institutional stakeholders.

Both speakers emphasized the importance of the proposal as one of the main cornerstones of the EU data economy. However, they also recognized that the proposal still requires a comprehensive assessment of the proposal’s real-life impact given the technical nature of some of its provisions. In addition, some clarifications are necessary to avoid putting an additional burden on EU SMEs and companies, thus guaranteeing a competitive edge for the digital economy and society. Against that background, they encouraged all stakeholders to come up with their input to implement a practical framework that works for everyone.

Ms. Anna-Liisa Pärnalaas stated that the proposal has several provisions that support businesses entering the market and empower consumers, e.g. data portability, interoperability safeguards, and unfair contractual contracts. On privacy rights, Ms. Pärnalaas underlined that this regulation should avoid a situation where requirements lead to loss of control of personal data. To tackle this issue, she mentioned that additional safeguards and clarifications about how GDPR applies to the Data Act would be beneficial.

Ms. Angelica Petrov said the European Parliament supports this piece of legislation as it comes at a timely moment with the surge of connected devices and IoT products which generate a significant amount of data. In her view, data holders should have access to the data they produce, and this framework comes at the right moment to regulate how to process and collect data, unleashing the true power of industrial data for EU consumers and businesses. Against that background, Ms. Petrov stressed how this legislation would help B2B, B2G and cloud switching. In that regard, Ms. Petrov would like to see more clarity on definitions as well as data anonymization; data sharing with Member States governments in emergency situations; and cloud switching rights including reverse switching.

When asked about the imbalance on third parties’ requirements, who would be the big economic beneficiaries, in the direction of both consumers and manufacturers, Ms. Petrov and Ms. Pärnalaas answered that this issue would require additional safeguards and provisions.

From an institutional standpoint, Ms. Petrov noted that there has been a broad consensus on major issues in the European Parliament so far. She added that the timeline is on hold for now due to a conflict of competence between committees. Ms. Pärnalaas stipulated that the Council had finished the first reading of the French presidency’s report. She mentioned that the first written comments are with the Presidency before discussions kick off in July, adding that the most active part will begin in fall 2022.

To watch the full replay of the last breakfast webinar click here.

If you would like to stay up to date with the developments regarding EU digital policies and related events, please sign up to our monthly EU Data Policy Update here. Learn more about our EU Data Policy Services here.

Dr2 Consultants hosts second webinar on the EU Data Act and its impact on EU competition and smart mobility goals

Following the publication of the EU Data Act in February 2022, Dr2 Consultants hosted a second Breakfast Webinar on May 25 to discuss the impact of the EU Data Act on the European competition and smart mobility goals. The webinar is the second in a series of three, where the first was held on May 5 and discussed the impact on EU competition and sustainability goals.

The event was moderated by Cathy Kremer, Senior Consultant at Dr2 Consultants. Two speakers were invited to share their thoughts about the impact of the Data Act on the mobility sector. Mr. Mikael Isaksson, Public Affairs Officer at Volvo Cars and Dr. Nima Barraci, Senior Manager, Group Data Strategy and Transformation at Lufthansa Group gave insight into the road transport and aviation sectors’ perspectives.

Mr. Isaksson stated that the consumer focused approach in the Commission proposal is the right approach. He underlined that Volvo Cars values people’s freedom to move in a personal, sustainable and safe way. He argued that data and connectivity have a role to play in decarbonizing transport, in managing traffic flows and in optimizing energy efficiency. Data must be shared in a way that is safe, technically feasible and relevant for the consumer. The Data Act should not stifle innovation, growth and investment. It should lay down the basic principles to ensure data can be accessed on a level playing field.

Dr. Barraci said that Lufthansa Group had in principle a positive stance towards the Data Act. He noted that, currently, machine generated data is to a large extent unregulated and there are no rules to whom the data belongs and who has access to it. The Data Act would level the playing field by creating ground rules, foster competition and innovation. It would help reach the EU’s sustainability goals by improving the ecological performance of aircrafts and aircraft operations. The Data Act will foster innovation and energy efficiency, he underlined.

Asked about their one key message to policymakers, Dr. Barraci wished to see the Data Act become an enabler for innovation and competition in Europe. Mr. Isaksson concluded that the Data Act should be designed in a way that it encourages innovation and that it will benefit everyone in the connected mobility ecosystem.

To watch the full replay of the second breakfast webinar, click here.

Input gathered from the first and second webinar will feed into a discussion with institutional stakeholders in the final webinar on 16 June.

If you would like to stay up to date with the developments regarding EU digital policies and related events, please sign up to our monthly EU Data Policy Update here. Learn more about our EU Data Policy Services here.

Dr2 Consultants hosts webinar on the EU Data Act and its impact on EU competition and sustainability goals

Following the publication of the EU Data Act in February 2022, Dr2 Consultants hosted a Breakfast Webinar on May 5 to discuss the impact of the Data Act on European competition and sustainability goals. The event was moderated by Cathy Kremer, Senior Consultant at Dr2 Consultants.

Mr. Paolo Falcioni, Director-General of APPLiA, representing the home appliance sector in Europe, and Mr. Radu Surdeanu, Senior Director Government Affairs at Siemens Energy, a large energy company offering products and services along the entire value chain, were invited to shed light on the Data Act from an association and business perspective.

Both speakers agreed with the key ambition of the Data Act, its potential to increase Europe’s competitiveness and contribute to the EU’s sustainability goals, but they underlined there is still a long way to go for this proposal. The rules for the industry need to be more clearly defined and the text should be strengthened in a participatory manner with all stakeholders.

Mr. Falcioni stated that the home appliance industry is committed to facilitate the transition to the circular economy by unlocking all valuable data, while supporting the principles of fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms for making data available. However, Mr. Falcioni wonders to what extent the protection framework to trade secrets would apply and prefers to respect the contractual freedom of the parties involved. Mr. Falcioni noted that some elements were missing in the Commission’s text. He wished to see clarification on conditions and obligations, e.g. which data should be made available and to whom. He wondered how the Data Act will help square the circle between the climate crisis and the EU’s competitiveness.

Mr. Surdeanu welcomed the Data Act and supported the standardization efforts for interoperability. He noted that in the energy sector data and AI are paramount to the development of the sector, offering solutions in terms of decarbonization. He had similar concerns about the Act as Mr. Falcioni regarding trade secrets, contractual freedom, and lack of distinction between B2C and B2B contracts and stated that the high level of ambition does not match the actual proposal. Mr. Surdeanu said a shift in mindset and skills is needed to reach ambitions of the EU’s twin transition. Finally, he said there is a disproportionate ratio between incentives and the regulatory burden. Companies should be more incentivized, especially smaller players for whom digitization might become an obstacle.

Input gathered from this webinar and the next one, which takes place on May 25 and will focus on the impact of the Data Act on the transport sector, will feed into the discussion with institutional stakeholders in the final webinar on June 16.

To watch the full replay of the first breakfast webinar click here.

If you would like to stay up to date with the developments regarding EU digital policies and related events, please sign up to our monthly EU Data Policy Update here. Learn more about our EU Data Policy Services here.

European Council March 2022 summit: conflict in Ukraine is a test of European unity and its transatlantic solidarity

Leading up to the European Council 24-25 March 2022 summit it was clear that coming up with a plan to tackle the rising energy prices would be tough. Particularly, Southern EU Member States have demanded concrete actions at European level for a longer time. The conflict in Ukraine and subsequent sanction regime put on Russia have put this topic even higher on the agenda. The situation intensified by Putin’s announcement to only accept rubles as a means to pay for Russian gas imports. The summit was also marked by the presence of US President Joe Biden, who also attended part of the European Council Meeting and made clear that Europe and the US can count on each other in difficult times.

EU’s starting position

Through the new REPowerEU initiative, The European Commission wants to ensure that Europe’s gas supplies are sufficiently filled for next winter. As with the purchase of vaccines during the corona crisis, the Commission wants to start negotiations on behalf of EU countries with more reliable suppliers of gas via pipelines and LNG ships such as the United States, hoping to enforce larger contracts and better prices thanks to the collective power of EU Member States. Northern EU Member States have voiced skepticism about this proposal. The Commission’s proposal also includes the option to replace gas with hydrogen in the future, which gives Europe the opportunity to accelerate the transition to the more sustainable renewables.

North-South division on price interference

Leading up to the European Council March 2022 summit, Southern EU Member States – primarily Spain and Portugal – advocated a price ceiling or an intervention in the functioning of the electricity market, an option that Northern Member States such as the Netherlands and Germany have voiced a dislike for. Member States can help companies with state aid. However, this costs governments a lot of money that goes into unproductive investments, they argue. France seems to have tried to stay in a position to seek consensus. The Commission announced that in this regard, it will release a new report in May with possible medium-term measures for the electricity price.

On the measures to cap gas and electricity prices, The French Secretary of State for European Affairs, Clément Beaune, stated on 22 March in preparation of the summit that the discussion was more difficult. Also, an embargo on Russian energy products was an option to be explored. The EU leaders put forward a request to the energy ministers to examine the measures which the Commission proposed to deal with rising prices. On the purchase of gas, LNG and hydrogen they already reached a commitment to work together.

Energy (in)dependence high on the agenda

One of the first major announcements following the European Council March 2022 summit was a commitment by President Biden to increase the American gas supply to Europe to support the EU in its effort towards energy independency from Russia. He vouched the US could replace 10% of the Russian gas export to Europe. It has to be noted, however, that environmentalists raise questions about the environmental impact of said American gas, most of which consists of shale gas. The Green group in the European Parliament already criticized the Commission’s proposals for mandatory filling of gas storage facilities, stating that this can only be a short-term and interim solution in the current crisis. They argue that the Commission must accelerate the approval procedures for subsidies for energy efficiency measures.

Fit for 55 services

On 25 March, the last day of the summit, an embargo on Russian oil and gas was discussed. However, there did not seem to be broad support for such an extensive measure. The morning of 25 March was devoted on how the EU could reduce the Union’s dependence on Russian fossil fuels and how it could deal with rising energy prices. The proposal to cap gas prices is very divisive, while the announcement by the European Commission on the joint gas purchases seems to be more consensual.

Special compromise on price caps

The discussion on price caps on gas was resolved by giving Spain and Portugal special concessions. Because of their specific energy situation, as the Iberian Peninsula is not fully integrated with the European power network, the two countries will be allowed to temporarily exercise a higher control on their domestic energy market. The Commission will, however, maintain the right to control the Spanish and Portuguese emergency measures in order to ensure they do not impede general European interests.

Towards unity on joint actions and strategy

Lastly, the EU Member States announced their intention to pool together the purchasing power of the member states in the international energy market and will therefore explore the possibility of joint energy purchases, specifically for LNG, hydrogen and gas. This will also be coupled with more investments in gas storage facilities. For the long term, it was clearly confirmed that an end of European dependency to Russian energy will be the common strategic objective. A direct embargo on Russian energy products was not made concrete.

Sanctions, data and more

The Council decided to not further increase the sanctions put in place on the Russian economy. This can be interpreted in relation to concerns raised by certain heads of state that the sanctions should not hurt the European economy more than they do the Russian. The Council did confirm that an extra sanction package in the form of a boycott of Russian oil is ready in case Russia crosses the red line of using chemical weapons during the conflict.

Additionally, the Council announced the conception of a Solidarity Trust Fund to support Ukraine. The fund will be open to all sorts of donations and the specifics have been discussed with Ukrainian president Zelensky. Lastly, the EU and the US have confirmed their commitment to negotiate an agreement on data flows and privacy between the two markets. This can be interpreted in relation to the recently published European Data Act that requires such multilateral agreements to facilitate data sharing.

What to expect following the European Council March 2022 summit?

An issue put on the table that remained unresolved is that of decoupling the gas price from the energy market. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced this will be looked at more concretely in May. We can expect this, as well as the REPowerEU agenda to remain in focus for the next months. Furthermore, we can expect more precise information on the German plan to quickly decouple from Russian energy and the Spanish and Portuguese governments are expected to publish details on their emergency energy measures. Any initiatives regarding security and the energy crisis will be dealt with on top of the current legislative priorities. As of this moment, the Commission has not announced that any of the current revisions and or proposals, such as those part of the Fit for 55 package, will be delayed.

Want to know more about these latest developments and how they impact your organization? Please get in touch with us.

Dr2 Consultants launches new EU Data Policy services

Is your organization ready for the new data economy?

Today, 17 February, one week before the publication of the European Commission’s proposal for a Data Act on 23 February, Dr2 Consultants launched its brand-new EU Data Policy services to keep track of EU legislation related to the data economy and support organizations in anticipating its impact as well as identify threats and opportunities.

Data is the cornerstone of every future development across our society and economy, ranging from technological innovations and transport to better energy consumption and privacy. Public and private organizations must prepare for the challenges to come and continuously integrate new policies in their daily business activities.

The European Union has developed a “European strategy for data”, which captures the benefits of better use of data, enhancing productivity and competition, and to become a world leader in the data economy. If you want to know more about what to expect from the Data Act, we have already published a blog post on the first leak.

Dr2 Consultants wants to support organizations in their efforts to anticipate future digital regulations in such a way that they can benefit from all potential opportunities for growth and innovation.

 

Over the last years, Dr2 Consultants has built up a track record in advising a broad range of clients in navigating the EU ecosystem. Whether your regulatory issues relate to infrastructure, data sharing, data privacy, regulation of service providers or digital policies in general, we, at Dr2 Consultants, have the expertise to support you in ensuring your organization can continue to operate and grow.

Jasper Nagtegaal, Managing Partner

Dr2 Consultants has built solid foundations in terms of expertise in digital policy and network by providing support to a wide range of stakeholders, from local start-ups and public institutions to European associations and large corporations.

Dr2 Consultants offers a full range of tailored public affairs services, from a data snapshot report and a comprehensive data impact scan, to data public affairs and communication campaigning, data policy monitoring, and wider EU public affairs trainings.

To stay updated on the latest policy developments, subscribe (tick the box “Digital/Tech” under Communication permissions) to receive our EU Data Policy updates directly to your inbox.

For more information on the data-related legislative initiatives and the way they will impact your organization click here or feel free to reach out to Mr. Jasper Nagtegaal.

Subscribe EU Data Policy Services webpage

Dr2 Consultants nominated for the Trends Gazellen 2022 Award

Dr2 Consultants is proud to announce that it has been nominated for the prestigious Trends Gazellen Award 2022.

Every year, the Trends Magazine selects 250 Trends Gazellens among fast-growing companies that are integral part of Belgian economic landscape. These competitive companies have a positive influence on the business climate in their region and they represent sources of innovation and employment. The Trends Gazellens are regarded as an inspiring role model for other companies.

Over the past decade, Dr2 Consultants has grown into a renowned EU and Belgian Public Affairs consultancy with focus on transport, energy and sustainability and digital-tech. With over 20 international consultants, Dr2 Consultants’ dedicated services include EU and Belgian Public Affairs, the European Green Deal Impact Scan, Fit for 55 services and the Dr2 Academy, a training institute for Public Affairs.

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What to expect from the French presidency regarding digital files?

In the coming months, it will be crucial for the digital sector to become aware of what needs to be done in a further digitalizing economy. Therefore, this blogpost focuses on the various files that will be addressed by the French Presidency starting from 1 January, under its motto: “Recovery, Power and Sense of Belonging”.

Slovenia’s scoreboard

When Slovenia took over the Presidency of the Council, it was clear that there were a number of important priorities. First of all, the Digital Services Package was the main focus of the Presidency. For both the Digital Services Act (DSA) and the Digital Markets Act (DMA), a general approach at the Competitiveness Council in 25 November was reached. Regarding the Data Governance Act (DGA), the EU Parliament and Council found an agreement on 30 November. The DGA will provide a framework for sharing industrial data across the EU.

Secondly, another priority was cybersecurity. In that regard, the most relevant file was the review of the Directive on Security of Network and Information System (NIS2). It lays out legal measures to boost the overall level of cybersecurity in the EU. Reaching a common position on new rules for cybersecurity on 3 December was again a win for the Slovenians.

Thirdly, the Presidency focused specifically on the different aspects of Artificial Intelligence. In September it held several events organised around AI ethical implication and policy discussions. The aim was to find an agreement on the general approach for the AI Act before the end of the Presidency. However, talks on the AI Act, and other files – including the e-Privacy regulation, are postponed. On the e-Privacy regulation, the Slovenians held just one trilogue. It will now be to the French to lead on talks with the Parliament and the Commission – although do not expect anything this file to become a priority.

What to expect from France?

In the coming months, the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union will lead important files through the institutional negotiations and will be closely involved in the legislative files that are part of the “Digital Decade”, including the Digital Markets Act (DMA), and the Digital Services Act (DSA). Moreover, the French EU Presidency will coincide with French general elections set for mid-April 2022.

There is a lot of expectation on the French Presidency on leading digital files. The country is very eager to set up a robust framework to create legal certainty for the digital world. The French priorities are not fully communicated yet, but the main focus regarding digital and tech will be on both regulation and innovation.

The question of regulation will be at the heart of France’s Presidency. For France, the DSA and DMA are the two most important texts on internet services and they want to keep momentum for regulation.  France hopes the European institutions will come to an agreement in the trilogue during their Presidency and that they can close this file.

On the AI Act, which has been presented by the European Commission on 21 April, France is willing to make as much progress as possible. The priority regarding this file is to preserve regulatory sandboxes, which make it possible to test new technologies transparently and contribute to evidence based law-making.  On the NIS Directive, France underscores the explosion cyberattacks and ransomware. The French government believes it now has a historical opportunity to set standards in the next six months. The aim is to have full control over data in a transparent manner and to close dialogue abroad with major trade partners to harmonize access to data and work together on cybersecurity.

For France it must be a priority to be able to have both regulation as well as the capacity to innovate, especially for SMEs. For innovation, this relates to digital sovereignty and means that the EU is able to catch up in the digital world in comparison to the USA or China. In general, in digital & tech policy, France is quite favorable to scale down foreign tech companies in the hope of scaling up French and EU tech companies. Today, the digital world leader is setting the standards and France is of the opinion that today there are no European leaders in the digital world. Moreover, on 8 November, the French government announced a total of more than €2 billion in funding to be used in the French tech ecosystem over the next five years to create strong champions at the national and European level.

Looking forward

It is clear that the French government aims to advance the digital transformation and deepen the country’s role as a global and European powerhouse when it assumes the EU Presidency in January. But having the adoption of a common position on the AI Act on the agenda, the trilogue negotiations on the DSA and the DMA, combined with the national Presidential elections, will probably slow the progress on other files such as the e-Privacy regulation. Nevertheless, it is clear that France has put its focus on regulating the digital ecosystem. This will make it crucial for the sector to become aware of what needs to be done in the coming period.

Do you want to know more about these legislative files which are expected to dominate the policy discussions in the coming months, or would like to know more about the future of the EU Digital sector, do not hesitate to get in touch with us. Over the last years, Dr2 Consultants has built up a track record in advising a broad range of clients in navigating the EU ecosystem.

Would you like to know more about what the upcoming digital files means for your organization? Feel free to reach out or visit our DigitalTech webpage.