"A secure, economically viable and environmentally friendly energy supply is a crucial factor for Europe's future development," says the German Presidency of the EU Council, summing up its priorities for the energy sector during the first half of 2007. Given the limited supply of fossil fuels, the instability in certain regions of the world and the effects of climate change, the Presidency announces its hope of seeing an energy action plan adopted at the Spring 2007 European Council. The European Commission will be presenting the main points of the plan on 10 January.

The German Presidency will work to obtain complete opening of the markets for electricity and gas on the basis of uniform application of European guidelines in all EU member states. In early 2007, the European Commission's report on the implementation of the Second Internal Market Package and its final report on the sector inquiry will reveal where problems may still exist and where new guidelines may prove necessary.

The Presidency notes the need to improve energy efficiency, save energy and make greater use of renewable energy. Emphasis will be on the building sector, a major energy consumer, and on the product sector. The Seventh Research and Development Framework Programme is designed specifically to strengthen research and innovation in the energy sector.

The Presidency also announces an initiative on the promotion of resource-saving and energy-efficient technologies, which will be the main focus of an environment ministers' meeting.

Outside its borders, the EU must also develop energy partnerships with key producer, transit and consumer countries, primarily Russia and the United States. Energy policies will also be getting more attention under the European Neighbourhood Policy. The German Presidency will be...

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