I thank the Acting Chairman and the committee for affording me an opportunity to brief them in advance of the meeting of the EU Council of Energy Ministers in Brussels on Thursday. This week the Energy Council takes place against the backdrop of the horror that has been recently visited on the people of Paris and France. The meeting also takes place against a backdrop of virtually unprecedented global co-operation on energy and energy matters. I was exposed to both topics together last week when I visited Paris to attend the ministerial meeting of the International Energy Agency. The French Government decided that the meeting should go ahead as planned on Tuesday and Wednesday last and we, the Ministers, agreed that we should demonstrate our solidarity with the French Government and people at this time.
The central focus of the IEA meeting is hugely in keeping with the main topic for this Thursday's meeting of the EU Council of Energy Ministers which is energy union.
Energy union can also be read as solidarity within Europe on energy matters. The very foundation of the International Energy Agency is energy solidarity. The agency was founded almost 41 years ago against the backdrop of the first oil crisis. Ireland and 28 countries have worked together since then with the goal of strengthening and ensuring adequate energy emergency response mechanisms. At last week's meeting, Ministers endorsed significant development of the IEA's future role in an evolving global energy system. For example, security of energy supply for IEA members is to be an expanded focus for the IEA. Ministers also agreed the addition of a third pillar to the IEA's international role to embrace a new focus on energy efficiency and new technologies. Overall, Ministers reiterated a firm IEA commitment to enhanced co-operation on energy matters right across the globe.
This Thursday's meeting of the Energy Council will be focused to a large extent on enhanced energy co-operation at EU level. Energy union is the firmest embodiment yet of this goal of energy co-operation at EU level. In essence, energy union can be described as a framework strategy for a resilient energy union with a forward-looking climate change policy. Ireland is a strong supporter of energy union and believes that its five key dimensions are worthy goals. These are: energy security; solidarity and trust; a fully integrated European energy market; energy efficiency contributing to moderation of demand; decarbonising the economy; and research, innovation and competitiveness.
Ireland is also a keen advocate of citizen engagement and empowerment and, in this context, is particularly pleased that energy union puts citizens at its core. This is fully in keeping with our own commitment to doing just that here in Ireland, in the context of the new energy White Paper that I intend to publish in December. The process involved in its preparation has been hugely focused on citizen and business engagement and consultation.
The energy union agenda is energetically championed by the EU Vice President for Energy Union, Maros Šefovi. Mr. Šefovi visited Dublin in September and we held substantive discussions. In Dublin and again at the Energy Council on Thursday in Brussels, I have and will continue to highlight Ireland’s agenda regarding energy union. As a member state on the periphery of Europe, I believe that Ireland will see significant benefits from the energy union. Just like access to the Single Market led to an economic transition for Ireland, energy union will be a key driver in our transition to a low-carbon future.
At the Energy Ministers Council on Thursday a key milestone in the evolution of energy union will be achieved with agreement on governance structures. These are largely focused on measurement and evaluation, key attributes Ireland supports. It is, therefore, my intention to welcome energy union and to support the proposed governance structures.
Energy union will not be without challenges. In particular - this is a second topic for discussion at the Energy Ministers Council on Thursday - the development of a single wholesale market design may not be appropriate for all national and regional markets in the European Union. Ireland believes that countries currently implementing the third energy package, including the electricity target model, should not be required to implement further significant changes prior to the necessary infrastructure being developed. In order to overcome this challenge, Ireland intends to increase the level of electricity interconnection. In particular, I would highlight the proposed electricity interconnector between Ireland and France as a critical component of Ireland's access to the integrated market.
The third and final key topic for discussion at Energy Council this week concerns a new initiative on energy efficiency labelling. At Council, Ministers will discuss an important new and improved legal framework for the energy labelling of energy-related products. The main objective of the new proposed framework is to encourage innovation and the production of ever more efficient products. It will enable customers to make informed choices about energy efficiency and consumption when making their purchases and thus contribute to the overall moderation of energy demand at Union level. There is considerable untapped energy saving potential in the field of energy-related products and appliances. Ireland has engaged positively in negotiations on this framework to date.
Energy union affords Ireland valuable opportunities to further strengthen our national energy systems. I plan to positively reflect Ireland's willingness to engage with the concept with zest at the Energy Council on Thursday.
As I will be appearing before the committee again next week - I very much look forward to that - to discuss wider energy policy matters, today I propose just to discuss topics associated with the Energy Council meeting on Thursday, as outlined in these opening remarks. Next week I can deal with those other topics members will undoubtedly wish to raise with me.