European Commission tells Duncan - North Sea project funding ‘of utmost importance’
Ian Duncan MEP has challenged the candidate European Commissioner for Climate Change and Energy on funding for North Sea oil and gas projects. This week MEPs have been questioning all potential Commissioners on their portfolios, and as member of the Environment Committee Mr Duncan asked Miguel Arias Cañete of Spain what action he would take to make up for a 4 billion cut in funding for North Sea grid projects, such as Northconnect and ISLES. In the last round of EU Budget negotiations the amount of funding potentially available was cut from 10 billion euros to 5.8 billion euros. Commissioner designate Cañete told Mr Duncan that North Sea projects were 'of the utmost importance'.
"Scotland has huge potential to export energy to the parts of Europe that need it most. Creating a North Sea Grid is a key part of realising that ambition. We need the European Commission to focus on projects that will deliver economic growth and jobs, and importantly direct significant funding towards them. I am reassured by Mr Cañete’s response, that he views North Sea projects as of "the utmost importance" and will hold him to his word that he will fight for additional resources. Indeed I have invited Mr Cañete to visit Scotland as soon as possible, to find out more about our world leading energy sector."
However, Mr Cañete's comments regarding fracking (shale gas) were of concern.
"The European Union has no competence over hydrocarbon extraction in North Sea using conventional methods. I am concerned that Mr Cañete did not rule out future EU legislation on fracking, indeed he asserted that 'he would decide'. This is deeply concerning and I will oppose any EU interference in this area. Member states are best placed to decide."
Jean-Claude Juncker, the new President of the European Commission, announced the distribution of portfolios among his new team on 10 September.
Among the new Commissioners, due to take up their posts on 1 November, are 18 former (prime) ministers. The President has announced that the new Commission will be "very political".
The new Commission must now be approved by the European Parliament, who will interview the commissioners between 29 September and 7 October.
During these two weeks of hearings, the 27 commissioners will be interviewed by MEPs from relevant parliamentary commissions.
Parliament can then accept or reject the whole team.