On the 15th of May 2012, representatives of all 21 EU Member States with an oil refining presence, Members of the European Parliament as well as representatives of the EU refining industry and of trade unions were convened to an EU Refining Roundtable organised by Commissioner Oettinger. The principal objectives of the Roundtable were to share views on the difficulties faced by the EU oil refining sector and to assess the need for coordinated action at the EU level to deal with the sector's difficulties.
The background at the time was the halting of refining operations at a growing number of plants in the EU, with consequences in terms notably of job losses and increased risks to security of supply.
Conclusions of the Roundtable:
In recognition of the broad support for a continued discussion on the developments in the EU refining sector, it was decided that there should be a follow-up to this Roundtable (possibly in the form of a forum). The future debate will concentrate on the combined impact of policies that affect the EU refining sector and on the need to address the unintended consequences of EU legislation, in particular those that end up placing the EU industry at a competitive disadvantage to non-EU refiners;
There was broad support by participants for the use of existing EU level support measures to aid workers impacted by the restructuring of the industry, the need to assess and monitor the EU's petroleum products security of supply situation as well as monitor current and future EU legislative proposals for potential negative impacts on the competitiveness of the EU refining sector. At the same time, it was widely agreed that any proposed EU measure shall respect certain preconditions, namely ensuring the realistic prospect of the restoration of competitiveness of the sector and avoiding any potential worsening of the situation of the sector;
Commissioner Oettinger expressed satisfaction at the outcome of the Roundtable and called for the organisation of a second Roundtable (see Conference on EU Refining, below), bringing together a wider range of stakeholders, in order to engage in a more structured discussion focussed on the key issues of concern, to be organised in autumn 2012.
The European Commission organised a Conference on EU refining (entitled 'The future of refining in the EU: safeguarding competitiveness') on the 26th of November 2012.
Organised as a follow-up to the Refining Roundtable which took place in May, this conference provided stakeholders the opportunity to give their views on the Commission proposal for a horizontal sectoral fitness check of oil refining, and the setting up of an EU Refining Forum (see below)
Member States which expressed themselves (UK, IT and FR) were very much in favour of the Commission's proposals, even if IT and FR would like to go further (i.e.: selective imports of petroleum products/ carbon inclusion mechanism).
Industry very much welcomed the proposed fitness check but highlighted that it has to establish the conditions for refining to be fit to invest rather than fit to survive, and should be launched without delay.
Industry also wants the fitness check to be complemented by systematic competitiveness proofing for planned legislation as well as current proposals currently being implemented such as the Industrial Emissions Directive BREF and the Fuel Quality Directive Art.7A.
EU Refining Fitness Check
On the 10th of October 2012, a Communication entitled "A Stronger European Industry for Growth and Economic Recovery" was published. The context for this publication is the recognition that Europe needs to reverse the declining role of industry for the 21st century with the aim to deliver sustainable growth, create high-value jobs and solve the societal challenge that we face. In light of this, the Commission proposes a number of priority actions to stimulate investments in new technologies, to improve the business environment as well as access to markets and to finance.
Specifically with regards to the oil refining sector, the Communication proposes to undertake a fitness check of EU legislation. As part of its Smart Regulation strategy in 2010, the Commission developed fitness checks to provide an overall assessment of the regulatory framework in a policy area. These checks were designed to identify excessive administrative burdens, examine regulatory overlaps, gaps and inconsistencies, and try to assess the cumulative impact of legislation. Their findings serve as a basis for drawing policy conclusions on the future of the relevant regulatory framework. Fitness checks complement evaluation of individual initiatives: such evaluations do not always show the full picture and a more strategic and global view is often required. Fitness checks respond to this need.
 COM(2012) 582 final
The first meeting of the EU Refining Forum took place on Friday the 12th of April 2013.
A key follow-up to the EU Refining Roundtable launched by Commissioner Oettinger in May 2012, the Forum was established in response to requests by the oil refining industry and Member State representatives, with the aim to provide an opportunity for the industry, Member States, Members of the European Parliament, the Commission and other stakeholders to come together and discuss planned and future regulatory proposals with potentially significant impacts on the EU oil refining industry and on the EU's security of supply of petroleum products.
The participants (100) at the first meeting of the EU Refining Forum consisted of representatives from 18 Member States (HU, PL, IT, FR, UK, DE, RO, ES, SE, BE, NL, AT, IE, PT, LT, CZ, FI, CY), the Commission, the EP, Industry, energy experts such as the IEA and the Clingendael institute, a trade union body (industriAll) and journalists.
The focus of the meeting was a presentation on the scope, timing and methodology of the Refining Fitness Check announced in the recent update of the Industrial Policy flagship initiative, “A Stronger European Industry for Growth and Economic Recovery”.
Presentations were also given on two Commission initiatives for implementing existing directives: Article 7a of the Fuel Quality Directive, and the revision of the Refineries BREF (BAT reference document) under the Industrial Emissions Directive, of particular concern to the industry in terms of potential impacts on competitiveness.
Other than discussions on policy, there were also two presentations and discussions on developments in the refining sectors and in the supply and trade of petroleum products in the EU and the US.
Conclusions of the first meeting of the EU Refining Forum
A draft of the Refining Fitness Check (FC) mandate will be sent to stakeholders of the Forum with sufficient time for comments and suggestions/ input, after which it will be finalised by Commission services.
The timing for the finalisation of the Impact Assessment on art 7a of FQD is not known, but COM (CLIMA) have reassured industry that it will be comprehensive, that it will represent a proper evaluation of the costs and benefits of all the different possible options (6 in total), and that the voices of all stakeholders will be heard and considered before the COM proposal is delivered to the Council.
COM (ENV) will consider the most appropriate way to take into account the outcome of the Technical Working Group meeting for the revision of the Refineries BREF and to continue the work on this issue.
COM (ENER) will aim to organise two meetings of the EU Refining Forum a year, the intention being to have the second meeting of this year in the Autumn.
A date will be announced as soon as possible, and will aim to time it with developments in the FC.
Short conclusions on the Forum's discussions will be drafted and sent to stakeholders in the coming weeks, as well as posted online
First meeting of EU Refining Forum held on 12 April 2013
Second meeting of EU Refining Forum held on 27 November 2013
Third meeting of EU Refining Forum held on 22 May 2014
Summary & conclusions :