(AA)- European Union leaders agreed on Thursday to reinforce transparency in natural gas contracts with external suppliers such as Russia.
The European Council said in a statement on Thursday that the bloc is committed to “ensuring full compliance with EU law of all agreements related to the buying of gas from external suppliers, notably by reinforcing transparency of such agreements and compatibility with EU energy security provisions.”
“As regards commercial gas supply contracts, the confidentiality of commercially sensitive information needs to be guaranteed,” the statement said.
European Council President Donald Tusk said after the talks on Thursday: “An effective energy union can fundamentally improve the situation in Europe by ensuring cheap, safe and sustainable energy for all.”
“We have just taken a big step forward,” he added.
EU heads of government held discussions for the first time on developing closer energy ties on Thursday in Brussels.
“It was a good first discussion, and a tough discussion, about a project that has great potential,” Tusk said.
“All leaders agreed to reinforce transparency in the gas market so suppliers cannot abuse their position to break EU law and reduce our energy security,” Tusk added.
The decisison is part of an energy union deal, aiming to reduce the 28-nation bloc’s energy dependency on its main gas supplier Russia amid the crisis in Ukraine.
The European Union announced on Feb.25 its energy union plan, which includes pushing for increasing the security of the bloc’s energy supply, reducing energy prices and shifting to low-carbon technologies.
Part of the energy union project involves establishing a more competitive and stable legal framework in Europe for the energy market. Another part calls for providing increased choice of energy suppliers for consumers.
Still another part of the union agreement calls for the full integration of Europe’s energy supply and operations.
Under the energy union, the EU wants member states to allow at least 10 percent of their electricity to be transported across borders to their neighboring countries by 2020, in a move which is expected to reduce electricity prices for consumers.
The European Union has imposed sanctions on Russia for its role in the conflict in Ukraine, and for its annexation of the Ukrainian region of the Crimea. There is concern that Russia will use its position as principal supplier of gas to Europe as political leverage. The EU seeks to reduce its dependence on Russia as a consequence.
The EU, the largest energy importer in the world, imports 53 percent of its energy at an annual cost of around €400 billion ($426.8 billion), according to the European Commission.