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Minister Rabbitte outlines Telecoms and Energy priorities of Ireland’s EU Presidency

· Telecoms – framing policy to realise significant gains from the digital economy

· Energy – steering EU Internal Energy Market deliberations towards the delivery of real benefits for EU energy consumers, both households and business

Speaking at Trinity College this morning, Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte, outlined his focus for Ireland’s Presidency of the EU. “In simple terms, under Ireland’s Presidency Irish citizens must benefit from the digital economy and the EU Internal Energy Market”, he said.

He went on to outline how the telecommunications files to be progressed during Irelands Presidency of the EU Council will focus on policy and legislative initiatives which will help Europe, and Ireland, realise significant gains from the digital economy. “The Single Market has been an undoubted success, one we have all benefitted from. The single market of the future, based on the digital economy, has the potential to deliver much more. Ireland will be working to ensure that the EU is ready to stimulate and support this potential by prioritising the initiatives which have the capacity to increase confidence in Europe, specifically the Digital Single Market and the Digital Agenda for Europe”, the Minister said.

Providing a robust European infrastructure is a necessary step in restoring economic stability and realising sustainable growth and is the aim behind the Connecting Europe Facility regulations. On the telecoms side, the Presidency will be working to reach agreement between the Council and the Parliament on the regulations identifying the criteria for the selection of private sector projects eligible for funding under this scheme.

Digital infrastructures provide the foundation for the digital economy but in order for it to become a success, citizens and businesses need to feel safe and secure when transacting online. A proposed regulation on electronic identification and trust services aims to ensure that secure, trustworthy and easy online transactions become a reality. “This proposal has the capacity to open the way for greater use of online services and whilst it is complex and there are challenges to delivering it, the prize for all Europeans is substantial”, Minister Rabbitte said. “We also look forward to the publication of the forthcoming EU Cyber Security strategy which will help develop an integrated and coherent approach to cyber security at EU level and will further promote business and consumer trust and confidence online.”

Turning to Energy matters, Minister Rabbitte emphasised that a safe, secure and sustainable energy infrastructure and supply network is essential to power Europe’s future social and economic development and said that the EU internal market for energy is central in that regard. The EU Commission’s Communication on the Internal Energy Market, will be the subject of discussion at the Energy Council in February, to facilitate adoption of Council conclusions in June. Discussions will enable Ministers to reflect on how the Internal Energy Market can fulfil its considerable potential and deliver real benefits for EU energy consumers, both households and business.

A clear indication of the importance of energy across all sectors of society is the intention that European Heads of State and Government will discuss Energy during a special sectoral European Council at the end of May. One of the issues likely to be discussed by the Heads of State is the post-2020 Framework in relation to climate, renewable energy and energy efficiency targets.

“It is often said that ‘2020 is tomorrow’. If this is the case, then 2030 is the next day as infrastructure developed today will still be in place long after 2030. Perhaps most importantly, investors need long-term policy stability in order to have the confidence to invest in this long-term infrastructure. These investments, in turn, have positive impacts not only on security of energy supply, but also on stimulating growth and jobs, on encouraging competitiveness, and on ensuring environmental sustainability. It is therefore crucial that Europe deepens the integration of policy and cooperation in Energy matters”, Minister Rabbitte said.

“A smart energy system requires the development of new technologies and new skills, which lead to new opportunities for businesses, markets and the economy generally. Most importantly, it means more jobs for our citizens, which in turn leads to growth in the economy and more stability”, he continued.

Accordingly, the potential of smart grids and smart meters will feature prominently in discussions at the Informal Energy Ministerial meeting in April 2013. The European Commission’s 2011 Communication on Smart Grids sets policy directions to drive forward the deployment of future European electricity networks. It is also expected that the Commission will publish Communications on New Energy Technologies, and Carbon Capture and Storage towards the end of the Presidency. New Technologies need to be supported through investment in Research, Development and Innovation to ensure the long-term sustainability of the Energy sector. These Communications will be discussed at the Energy Council and at the Strategic Energy Technologies (SET Plan) Conference in May.