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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EU Seeks Wider Energy Controls

New York -- European Commission President Jose Barroso plans to demand more powers over fuel imports and electricity and natural gas markets in Europe, seeking to loosen the grip of national governments over energy policy.

The commission, the 25-nation European Union's regulatory arm, will plead for authority to negotiate EU-wide energy pacts with suppliers such as Russia, manage stocks in emergencies and create a single European grid, according to a draft of a strategy paper to be presented Wednesday in Brussels.

"Secure and affordable supplies can no longer be taken for granted," says a draft obtained by Bloomberg News. "An approach based solely on 25 individual energy policies is not sufficient."

Barroso, who has avoided confrontations with EU nations since taking office 16 months ago, is changing tack when it comes to energy. Price rises, supply disruptions, and French and Spanish steps to block takeovers by Italy's Enel and Germany's E.On threaten to undermine his goal of bolstering European economic growth, which has trailed the U.S. pace most of the past decade.

Energy remains a bastion of national sovereignty in the EU, where countries have given up powers in fields such as antitrust, trade and interest rates. Like defense policy, national governments treat energy as a strategic issue with little scope for EU-wide cooperation.

EU nations have endorsed legislation opening their power and gas markets to cross-border competition, established common nuclear safety standards, capped air pollution by energy companies and supported a European energy treaty with Balkan nations.

Barroso's draft paper urges EU nations to cede more power over energy trade and regulation while retaining the right to determine their fuel mix. The document revives ideas that his predecessor, Romano Prodi, failed to push through and aims to give impetus to more recent commission plans.

"In today's energy markets, decisions of one member state affect the energy security of others," says the draft, dubbed a Green Paper that may lead to concrete proposals by the end of the year. "If the EU speaks with the same voice on energy questions, Europe can lead the global energy debate."

With Europe's dependency on energy imports due to rise to 70 percent in 2030 from 50 percent Monday, the draft says the EU must strengthen ties to its "main" energy partners.

Building on last year's commission decision to hold regular talks with the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, the paper raises the prospect of "comprehensive" energy cooperation agreements with nations including Russia, supplier of one-quarter of the EU's gas.

A gas-price dispute in January between Russia and Ukraine led to a temporary disruption of supplies to countries including France and Austria.

"Specific attention will need to be given on how to best deepen energy trade issues with the Russian Federation," the draft says. "Russia and Europe are each other's most important energy partners and will remain so."