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19.3.4.  EU oil and natural gas supply

    Contrary to the EAEC Treaty's concern for the supply of nuclear fuels, the EEC Treaty did not show any particular interest for the supply of oil and natural gas. The general clauses under the title "trade policy" clearly could not form the basis of a supply policy for products as important as oil and natural gas. The EEC Treaty did not even give the European institutions the possibility of collecting and publishing information of vital importance for the common oil market, such as those covering investments, production or imports, as is done by the ECSC and Euratom Treaties for their respective areas. In light of the growing importance of oil in the1960s, this vacuum was partly filled by the Council.

    The most important measure is the strategic storage of petroleum products. A Directive lays down rules aimed at ensuring a high level of security of oil supply in the European Union through reliable and transparent mechanisms based on solidarity amongst Member States, maintaining minimum stocks of crude oil and/or petroleum products and putting in place the necessary procedural means to deal with a serious shortage [Directive 2009/119].

    A Regulation establishes provisions aimed at safeguarding the security of gas supply by ensuring the proper and continuous functioning of the internal market in natural gas (gas), by allowing for exceptional measures to be implemented when the market can no longer deliver the required gas supplies and by providing for a clear definition and attribution of responsibilities among natural gas undertakings, the Member States and the Union regarding both preventive action and the reaction to concrete disruptions of supply. It also provides mechanisms, in a spirit of solidarity, for the coordination of planning for, and response to, an emergency at Member State, regional and Union levels [Regulation 994/2010].

    In the context of the completion of the internal market, a Directive on the conditions for granting and using authorisations for oil and gas prospecting, exploration and extraction is designed to ensure non-discriminatory access to and pursuit of these activities by European companies in non-member countries under conditions which encourage greater competition in this sector [Directive 94/22]. However, Member States have sovereign rights over oil and gas resources on their territories. They therefore retain the right to determine the areas within their territory to be made available for oil and gas prospecting, exploration and production.

    A European procedure for information and consultation on crude-oil supply costs and the consumer prices of petroleum products was set up in 1976 and simplified in 1999 via the publication of a "weekly bulletin" by the Commission [Decision 1999/280 and Decision 1999/566].

    Thanks to the massive exploitation of British oil in the 1980s, to crude oil savings achieved by the quality of petrol and diesel fuels [Directive 98/70, last amended by Directive 2015/1513] and the diversification of supply sources, EC/EU supply of oil and natural gas was undoubtedly better guaranteed at the beginning of the 1990s than at the beginning of the1970s, as demonstrated by the lack of panic in response to the Gulf crisis at the end of 1990, sparked by Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. However, the European Union is still vulnerable as regards its oil and natural gas supply and lacks a genuine policy in this field. Although there is a common interest in a common development of strategic relations with external suppliers, the governments of the Member States continue to guard their prerogatives jealously.

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