MPIEP No. 14

“Soft” Governance in European Energy Policy. The “Winter Package” for the Energy Union of the European Commission.

Abstract:The new governance mechanisms of the European energy policy proposed by the European Commission in its “Winter Package” will contribute to a redefinition of the European energy and climate governance. This contribution reviews the proposal, its supporting documents and overall stakeholder positions along the criteria of governance efficiency, effectiveness and acceptance in order to assess its ability to support the European energy and climate goals. We find that the proposed governance sums up to a densely-meshed coordination of policies between the European level and Member States. Compared to the present governance, the enhanced mechanism can draw on significant synergies and reduce administrative costs. Our review of stakeholder positions shows a solid acceptance for enhanced coordination. Nonetheless our review identifies some potential flaws in terms of governance effectiveness: With unspecific or not further nationally attributed targets for 2030, the underlying governance structure can get blurred easily. Second, the proposal foresees in some cases direct corrective action of the European level, in the case Member States lag ambition. This surpasses the method of open coordination or could be seen as a case of “harder” soft governance which at the same time conflicts with article 194(2) TFEU (right of Member States to determine their national energy mix). Finally, the local level is left out. The proposal misses to link to on-going local actions like the Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plans (SECPs) to the overall governance structure.

© Michèle Knodt, Marc Ringel
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