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The Spring European Council: integrated climate protection and energy policy, progress on the Lisbon Strategy

The European Council held in Brussels on 8 and 9 March 2007 marked the successful conclusion to the first stage of the German EU Presidency. In at times difficult negotiations with the EU Member States' Heads of State and Government, Federal Chancellor Merkel achieved a breakthrough towards an ambitious integrated European climate and energy policy. This will give the EU credibility in the pioneering role it will play in international climate protection during the negotiations on a post-Kyoto regime, due to begin in 2007. In this context the European Council agreed to make a voluntary commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent as long as other industrialized countries adopt comparable goals. Apart from this commitment, however, it defined an independent goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020 in relation to 1990 levels.

Given the central role of a sustainable energy policy in achieving climate objectives, and as a milestone on the way to a European energy policy, the European Council adopted a European Energy Action Plan with the three goals of security of supply, efficiency and environmental compatibility. The negotiations centred around the agreement on a binding commitment to increase to 20 percent the proportion of renewable energies in overall energy consumption. This agreement is supplemented by the goal to introduce efficiency measures to cut by 20 percent the total energy consumption predicted for 2020. Linking energy saving with a clear commitment to promoting renewables conveys an important message to energy markets to invest in sustainable and innovative energies.

The goals for saving and innovation will be enhanced by decisions on completing the internal electricity and gas market, including the effective separation of production and network operation (unbundling). The Action Plan also contains clear statements on energy solidarity within the EU as well as on Member States' responsibility to decide their own national energy mixes. Finally, the Energy Action Plan contains important statements on security of supply and international energy policy as well as energy research and new energy technologies. The Commission is called upon to submit a review of its energy strategy by early 2009, which the European Council is to use as a basis to adopt a new energy action plan in spring 2010.

The EU Heads of State and Government acknowledged the success of the Lisbon Strategy for Growth and Jobs, reflected in higher growth and falling unemployment figures. The European Council emphasized that a functioning internal market and the promotion of innovation, research and development provide important impetus to support this positive progress in the long term.

The European Council underlined the importance of the timely and correct implementation of Community law. It appealed to the Member States to reduce the proportion of EU legislation not transposed into national law within the stipulated period to one percent by 2009. The Heads of State and Government highlighted the social dimension of the Lisbon Strategy and stressed that labour markets must respect the "good work" principle (appropriate working conditions, equal opportunities, safety at work, etc.).

The European Council underscored the significance of the Better Legislation Initiative and the reduction of bureaucracy for Europe's economic competitiveness. The Commission was asked to evaluate these areas before the 2008 Spring European Council.

The European Council reached a consensus on the goal of reducing bureaucracy related to planned EU legislation by 25 percent. It called upon the Member States to set equally ambitious goals to reduce bureaucracy.

Federal Chancellor Merkel explained the ideas for the structure and content of the Berlin Declaration. She received the go-ahead to draft a short and comprehensible text to convey the political relevance of the European Union at the start of the 21st century to the general public.

The Chancellor underlined the importance of transatlantic relations and took the opportunity to brief the European Council on the upcoming EU-US Summit, particularly the proposal of a transatlantic economic partnership.

In the area of international relations the European Council decided to hold the EU-Africa Summit in December 2007 during the Portuguese Presidency. It reinforced its previously formulated positions on the Middle East peace process and the situation in Lebanon.

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Date: 13.03.2007