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Energy

European Commission proposes plan to cut foreign energy reliance

The European Commission has proposed a plan to cut the EU's reliance on foreign energy, particularly from Russia. The strategy follows Moscow's threats to halt gas supplies to Ukraine, a key transit point for Europe.

A report from European Union leaders on Wednesday proposed securing the bloc's energy supplies by promoting internal sources, including renewable and nuclear energy, and shifting away from a "monopoly supplier."

"Improving the internal market will mean that energy prices will be roughly the same for everyone," EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger told reporters in Brussels. He added that for the bloc's natural gas supplies, "we must move away from a monopoly supplier, Russia in this instance."

Europe imports around 40 percent of its gas from Russia, nearly half of which flows through Ukraine.

As diplomatic tensions deepen between Kyiv and Moscow, Russia has threatened to cut off its gas supplies unless Ukraine pays up front for deliveries. Russia previously shut down transmission to Ukraine in 2006 and 2009, and EU countries have been hesitant this time around to sanction Moscow for its latest actions, including the annexation of Crimea.

Oettinger stressed, however, that "we are clearly in better standing today than during the 2006 gas crisis or at the beginning of 2009."

'European Energy Union'

EU leaders have suggested a "European Energy Union" - a single market with guaranteed supplies and infrastructure that would assure the bloc is not overly reliant on any one country for its energy.

Oettinger said European countries should consider increasing renewable energy production and raising "sustainable production of fossil fuels."

"We want strong and stable partnerships with important suppliers but must avoid falling victim to political and commercial blackmail," he said.

The EU must "complete the internal energy market, improve our infrastructure, become more efficient and better exploit our own resources," said Oettinger. "Moreover, we need to accelerate the diversification of external energy suppliers, especially for gas."

Significant foreign reliance

The 28-nation bloc imports more than half of its energy supplies, and that reliance is expected to increase by 27 percent by 2030, said the Commission. In 2012, the EU paid more than 1 billion euros a day for that energy, it added.

Europe's main remaining reserves of fossil fuel are shale gas, which would be accessed by the controversial hydraulic fracturing process known as "fracking." Several countries, including France, have all but ruled out that option due to environmental concerns.

The Commission's plan will be submitted to EU leaders at a June 26-27 summit.

dr/mz (AFP, AP, dpa)