There is a general impression that a common energy policy is non-existent or, at best, ineffective. This impression arises chiefly from confusion between energy policy and oil supply policy. The latter is clearly of vital importance and is still lacking. But it is only a part of energy policy. It cannot be denied that the common coal, oil and nuclear energy markets have been largely achieved thanks to EC/EU policy. But their existence tends to be taken for granted and similarly significant achievements are expected in the area of supply, notably oil supply. The fact that no European treaty provides for such a policy is often forgotten. The silence of the Treaty means, however, that the Member States do not want to commit themselves in a common policy for oil and gas supply. This is why they have not taken any legislative measures in this field, other than the strategic storage of petroleum products and the security of gas supplies in emergency circumstances. They have not developed, in particular, a common policy towards their suppliers of oil and gas. The common supply policy in the nuclear sector, where the Euratom's Supply Agency has the privilege of concluding contracts for the supply of ores, source materials and special fissile materials originating inside or outside the EU remains a solitary, albeit a very successful, achievement [see section 19.3.3].
Thus, the legislative measures in the energy sector concern practically only the functioning of the internal electricity and gas markets. Of course, secure supplies of electricity and gas at competitive prices, delivered on open, transparent and competitive interconnected markets, with adequate protection of final consumers, are crucial to Europe's competitiveness. The national regulatory authorities, relevant state administration bodies and competition authorities have to play an increasingly important role in delivering liberalised energy markets across the European Union. Moreover, fair and non-discriminatory access to the network for all system users is essential if competition is to develop. However, transparency of energy markets, for both operators and final consumers, should be ensured, cross-border exchange of energy should be improved and cross-border exchanges with third countries should be enhanced.
On the other hand, the vital for the European economies supplies of oil and natural gas are left at the discretion of American and a few European multinational companies, with little national and practically no European intervention. Thanks to the increase of internal production - notably in the North Sea - and to the diversification of fuels and suppliers, the Union is now in a much more comfortable situation than the one the Community has experienced in the mid-1970s. However, despite these improvements, the problems have not gone away. On the contrary, they have multiplied, because of the unpredictable increases in the prices of crude oil and of the very predictable increases in greenhouse emissions brought about by the consumption of oil products.
This is why, the EU has set up a forward-looking political agenda, the ''20-20-20 climate change plan'', aiming at the core energy objectives of sustainability, competitiveness and security of supply, by reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20%, increasing the share of renewables in the energy consumption to 20% and improving energy efficiency by 20%, all of it by 2020. To achieve these objectives, the Commission proposes a five-point ''EU Energy Security and Solidarity Action Plan'': promoting infrastructure essential to the EU's energy needs; a greater focus on energy in the EU's international relations; improved oil and gas stocks and crisis response mechanisms; a new ''Energy Efficiency Package'', focused on improvements in the legislation; and better use of the EU’s indigenous energy production, which currently provides 46% of the energy used in Europe. The European Council on 11 and 12 December 2008 agreed to implement the ambitious energy and climate package proposed by the Commission.
However, the EU is not able to achieve the objective of secure, competitive and sustainable energy alone. Economic progress in the developing world will lead to major increases in global energy demand, with possible implications for fuel prices, and could increase the already adverse effects of energy consumption on health and the environment of the planet. These problems can only be mitigated through concerted international effort to develop promising technologies and new energy sources. In view of the expected growth in demand for energy worldwide, in the foreseeable future, increasing use should be made in both developed and developing countries of all potential energy sources and all new technologies. The EU should use its international weight to persuade other major industrial competitors to follow suit in curbing energy consumption and greenhouse emissions, in developing new energy technologies and turning to renewable energy sources.
The Treaty on the Energy Community has established a single regulatory framework for trading energy across the EU and southeast Europe [see section 19.1.2]. EU energy relations with consumer countries (such as the United States, India, Brazil or China), producer countries (Russia, Norway, OPEC countries and Algeria, for example) and countries of transit (such as the Ukraine) are of prime importance from the perspective of geopolitical security and economic stability. To diversify hydrocarbon supply, in particular, the EU should, at least, promote greater coherence between national policies and develop a common voice in the relations of the Member States with producer countries, notably the OPEC countries and Russia. Following the paradigm of the Energy Community, the EU should be a driving force in the development of international energy agreements, in particular by strengthening the European Energy Charter, taking the initiative in an agreement on energy efficiency and participating actively in the post-Kyoto climate change scheme. To ensure efficiency and coherence, it is crucial that Member States and the EU are able to speak with a single voice on international energy issues.