We, Europeans have to rely much more on ourselves in the future. We'll have to integrate in some areas closer than before. I believe it will be your generation that will bring about a more integrated, more cohesive and more assertive Europe
Vice-President Šefčovič kicked off the discussion with some explanations about the Energy Union and the added value of a European approach to energy. He described the Energy Union as the EU’s strategy to design energy policies smarter in the future.
Talking about the expected results, he mentioned, among others, the open market among Member States and reminded participants that “we will be able to benefit from the size and scale of the EU economy, which is the biggest on this planet.”
The Vice-President’s opening words then triggered some questions on energy security and energy subsidies, which in turn led to a discussion on the energy mix and future technologies. Vice-President Šefčovič explained that the pace of transformation is much faster than expected. He gave the example of off-shore wind energy production, which today can be done without any subsidies at competitive market prices if conditions are right.
From fast paced technological development the questions moved to artificial intelligence and the role of robots. Vice-President Šefčovič agreed that the development of robotics are not always regarded in a positive light. There are worries regarding the replacement of certain, mainly repetitive technical professions by robots.
These challenges need to be addressed by society. In this context the discussion also touched upon skills mismatch, the need for life-long-learning and the awareness of future skills demands.
Remaining with the subject of new technologies, participants wanted to know about the future of transport, and in particular the use of electric cars, and what incentives will be available to move forward towards a zero emission transport.
The Vice-President underlined that the European car industry needs to invest in environmentally friendly fuels and produce “cool, clean and autonomous cars, which are not too expensive” in the future to meet the demands of future generations. At the same time the EU will support the industry by accelerating the change through lower emission targets and creating the market by the faster roll-out of alternative fuel stations network.
The Vice-President was also asked, among others, about EU legislation in the energy sector, the carbon tax, the future of nuclear energy, and whether the regulation of energy prices can be considered a social measure.
Responding to these questions, Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič referred to the carbon emission scheme and its adjusted after 2020 to reflect the EU’s commitments in the Paris climate agreement.
Regarding EU legislation he talked about the drive for higher energy efficiency, and coming to the nuclear energy sector he explained how it needs to be faster and more competitive with other energies for a European or global future. Instead of regulating energy prices, he explained why he would recommend targeted social assistance and market operation.
The event in Tallinn was part of a series of Citizens' Dialogues that involve the whole European Commission and take place in all EU Member States.