European Solidarity is not compatible with the Energy Charter Treaty

Policy op-ed


Publication date

November 21, 2022

The Energy Charter Treaty is yet another vestige of the past, one of the many intergovernmental agreements from another time… What lies behind its rather strange name?

It is an international agreement chiefly driven by the European Union to protect itself from the many countries with unstable dictators who might make decisions against their energy champions. I do not think the initiators of the Treaty had bargained on it becoming a double-edged sword. Because today, Western European states are the ones finding themselves the subject of complaints, and the exorbitant price of compensation for damages clearly puts European countries at risk, but also local authorities when they commit to ambitious climate policies.

The High Council on Climate, a French institution, has recently issued an opinion on France’s desired withdrawal from this Treaty. The French President remarked that this should go hand in hand with an exit from the European Union.

I will not go into detail here about the complex mechanisms or the history of modernising this treaty… I will however point out the unanimity of MEPs from all factions in favour of a withdrawal.

Our roadmap for “climate neutrality” is clear: an ambitious target (2050 for Europe), with intermediary targets (2030), which require a consistent schedule of investments, that the Treaty puts at risk. And we need these investments for the transformation of cities, for local economies, for our production methods! It is nonsensical to ask cities involved in the Climate-neutral Cities 2030 Mission to sign a contract to accelerate investments, without protecting them against potential complaints and all the while continuing to sanction past fossil investments!

This is why the Mayors of the EU Cities Mission have rallied together to appeal to the European Union in an open letter. And it does pay off to mobilise! Thanks to Mayors, thanks to civil society pressure, the biggest Member States decided to abstain last 18th November, during the preparatory meeting of permanent representatives, meaning that the EU can not take position on the international conference of the Energy Charter Treaty of the 22nd of November.

But we are not yet there, the EU must withdraw from the ECT.

All of these policies and instruments must be aligned.

It’s really quite simple! And yet…