Rain Epler: Puppets and hypocrites in EU energy policy

Rain Epler.
Rain Epler. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

War and sanctions have had a major impact on energy, while this has been made possible by strategic mistakes made in the EU over a long time, Rain Epler writes.

The "Noor-Eesti" almanach from the start of the previous century holds a thought by Gustav Suits: "Let us remain Estonians but also become Europeans." It seems today that more than a few among us who have become "European" have forgotten the first half of the sentence. Looking at the conduct of representatives of other Member States in EU institutions, it seems they have not forgotten their homeland.

An ERR correspondent recently asked European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans why the Commission is refusing to introduce a quota trading price ceiling. His answer was that it is unnecessary because the effect of the emissions trading system on price is modest and only makes up a tenth of price advance. Timmermans' answer ticked off, in addition to yours truly, a good number of other people in Estonia and also Poland. But the vice president's answer is understandable on some level.

Frans Timmermans is Dutch. While he is serving as the Commission's vice president, he has obviously not forgotten his country. We know that the European Commission decided earlier this year that the use of gas and nuclear to generate electricity is "green."

Half of the Netherlands' power generation comes from natural gas, meaning that the price of CO2 quota has little effect on the price of electricity there. Unlike the situation in Estonia (60 percent from oil shale) and Poland (75 percent from coal). This means that a price ceiling on electricity benefits the Netherlands more than capping the quota price.

It's as if Timmermans read a paraphrasing of Suits' thought and remembered both sides of it. While being European, he has remained a Dutchman.

Estonia's European Commissioner [for energy] Kadri Simson, on the other hand, is acting like a puppet, singing the big brother's song, and seems to have forgotten the people who delegated her to become "European." My experience suggests Simson is hardly an exception here. This kind of conduct is characteristic of many people who have been sent to Europe or represent Europe in Estonia. After all, the post of manor taskmaster has appealed to many Estonians in the past.

Reading and listening to domestic and foreign politicians on the causes and potential solutions to the energy crisis, it is impossible not to notice the level of hypocrisy used to try and hide own past mistakes.

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen never tire of repeating that Putin's war in Ukraine is to blame for the energy crisis. War and mutual sanctions have absolutely had a major impact on energy, while this impact has been made possible by strategic mistakes on the European side made over a long time.

Europe has been increasing its dependence on Russian gas since the Nord Stream 1 project in 1997. This despite repeated warnings from Estonia and other so-called Eastern European states.

The green transition slogan was used to shut down gas and coal fields and introduce regulations that have rendered turning fossil fuels into energy an endless fight against windmills. At the same time, no serious alternatives, except Russian gas, have been offered. As soon as Russia turned off the gas, it became impossible to keep pretending that the green transition has been successful, or that any kind of transition has taken place at all.

But the failed greenification plan persists in the heads of leaders. Instead of rethinking longstanding errors, making energy solutions that work (coal, European gas fields, nuclear) feasible again and bringing them back, and seriously looking for future alternatives, efforts are instead aimed at centralization and colossal wealth redistribution.

The plan to do away with the unanimity requirement when making EU decisions will destine us for the role of little brother whose fate is decided by the big boys for good.

The absurdity peaks with the so-called solidarity tax idea. Bureaucrats, after making serious errors when developing the framework, now want to take it out of the hide of entrepreneurs. Whether fossil or renewable producers, everyone who has made a profit is looking at a retroactive extra fee. Such a decision notably erodes trust in the EU as a table regulatory environment. It is also difficult for me to understand why punish remaining producers with an additional obligation in the conditions of power shortages.

This is a good opportunity for top officials we've sent to Europe and our government to demonstrate that Estonia's interests won't simply be swept under the rug.

Estonia should straighten up and say, in response to the Commission's solidarity tax plan, that it has been in effect in Estonia for a long time. Oil shale mining rights fees are tied to the world market price of heavy fuel oil. In other words, a favorable economic environment sees producers pay more.

It would also be well to remind EU officials that renewable energy is the future based on their own plans, and we should not be quick to punish those who have invested in it. The coming weeks will show whether we will continue to sing to German and Dutch tunes, or whether there is enough courage to hum local songs instead.

It is hard to say what precisely Gustav Suits had in mind. However, I want to believe that by tying being Estonian and European together, the poet meant that representing one's own interests behind a common table is one part of being European.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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