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PCI list under fire by MEPs

Friday, January 26, 2018

During a meeting of the ITRE Committee, certain MEPs questioned the EC Representative on issues with regard to the drafting and contents of the recently published PCI list 2017

On 23 January, DG Energy Representative Catharina Sikow-Magny attended an ITRE Committee session, in which she presented the 2017 EU-wide list of projects of common interest (PCI). The list consists of energy infrastructure projects, such as gas pipelines and electricity interconnectors, deemed particularly beneficial for the overall EU energy and climate targets.

The MEPs asked critical questions to the EC representative pertaining to the contents of the list, the EC’s methodology, and how the list was finalized. The main critique came from the S&D and Greens/EFA Groups in the Committee.

Kathleen Van Brempt, a Belgian S&D MEP, was the first to voice her opinion on the PCI list. She pointed out issues on which other MEPs later also concurred, more specifically the predominant amount of gas projects in the list, the lack of transparency in drafting the list, and the insufficient dialogue with ITRE when preparing the list.

This was followed by comments from Greens/EFA MEPs, Florent Marcellesi from Spain and Michèle Rivasi from France. While the Spanish MEP reiterated some of the points made by Van Brempt, Rivasi, who is also the co-Rapporteur with Claude Turmes on the ‘Regulation on the Governance of the Energy Union’, stated that there is a mismatch between the EU’s energy and climate objectives and the PCI list.

Furthermore, the French Green MEP pointed out that 75% of the projects deal with gas and questioned the transparency of the studies carried out by the EC as well as whether the EU executive had conducted an in-depth climate assessment analysis for the included gas projects.

Other MEPs that voiced their dissatisfaction with the amount of gas projects in the list and the way it was drafted by the EC include the Romanian S&D MEP, Dan Nica, the Spanish GUE/NGL MEP, Xabier Benito Ziluaga, and the French S&D MEP, Edouard Martin.

Some of the main critics like Rivasi and Ziluaga are considering an official objection to the list, which could be tabled at the next ITRE Committee meeting on 21-22 February 2018. If the MEPs decide to continue with a formal objection to the list, it would require the ITRE members to vote on the list as a whole (since they cannot vote on a project-by-project basis) rather than merely grant the list automatic approval.

If during a vote on the list a majority of ITRE Members were to reject it, the file would be sent to a full EP Plenary session in March 2018. The entire list can only be rejected in Plenary if a qualified majority is reached there, which would in all likelihood be difficult since most of the EPP and ECR MEPs that would also partake in the vote support the list.