EU Friday – 12 April

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EU Friday

Welcome to Better Europe’s weekly update on EU Affairs.


After months of intensive work and almost never-ending trilogues, MEPs this week approved the EU’s new gas and hydrogen legislation with a wide cross-party majority. Beyond replacing our reliance on gas with a potential reliance on hydrogen, it brings a few positive additions including the requirement to draft decommissioning plans. Gas Distribution System Operators (DSOs) together with other stakeholders will need to draft plans on how to decommission unused infrastructure in case of future reduction in gas demand. The prioritisation of hydrogen in hard to decarbonise sectors is another positive aspect of the rules, as well as the establishment of the European Network of Network Operators for Hydrogen (ENNOH), separately from gas operators, to provide for a more competitive market and reduce conflicts of interest in infrastructure planning. For civil society, the package represents a successful outcome by ensuring that the use of hydrogen and development of hydrogen infrastructure is not indirectly controlled by gas operators, and that hydrogen is used in priority where it is most needed.



Ahead of next week’s Letta report on the future of the single market, Eurozone finance ministers kept themselves busy with discussions on the future of the euro and its digital version. The European Central Bank updated ministers on the state of play on their digital euro project and the global context of the initiative. In addition, the Council’s Working Party is progressing with its preparatory work on the legal regulation underpinning the digital euro project, whereas the European Parliament is apparently in no hurry at all. Initially planned for a Committee vote on 8 April, the report on the digital euro regulation is no closer to being voted and so faces an uncertain future. If not voted by the end of the current mandate, the responsibility for an initial negotiating position will move to the new Parliament and some replacement MEPs will have to be appointed on the negotiating team, such as shadow rapporteur Paul Tang (S&D, Netherlands) who is not coming back.



Earlier this week, the Parliament’s Trade and Energy committees by large majority supported a recommendation advocating for the EU to withdraw from the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT). This vote comes after the adoption of a resolution in 2022, in which the Parliament had already voiced the need for the EU to leave the treaty, as well as the publication last July of a Commission proposal for a coordinated exit. This proposal was supported by a qualified majority of Member States in Council early March, some of them having already decided to leave the treaty unilaterally. Established in 1994 to govern trade and investment as well as resolve disputes in the energy sector, the ECT is now considered too protective of fossil fuel investments and therefore incompatible with the EU’s Green Deal objectives. Trade committee rapporteur Anna Cavazzini (Greens, Germany) welcomed the committee votes, as the “fossil dinosaur treaty no longer stands in the way of consistent climate protection”. The Parliament’s plenary is expected to endorse the withdrawal decision during its final 22-25 April plenary session in Strasbourg.