The European Union is facing an increasingly risky dependence on foreign gas imports, and rising natural gas prices. Shale gas, and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) offer a solution to avoid further natural gas price increases and could reduce import dependence, but this requires a coalition of member states protecting shale development from new European Commission regulations.
This paper argues that the Netherlands would benefit from participating in such a pro-shale coalition as a strategy to influence the European Commission to refrain from issuing new fracking regulations. It explains that - regardless of whether the government chooses to allow fracking - The Netherlands will benefit through increased use of the extensive Dutch gas infrastructure, increased demand for the natural gas knowledge and experience of Dutch technical institutes, and improved competitiveness of the large Dutch chemical sector.
Although the European Commission has backed off on issuing new fracking regulations for now, it is under heavy pressure from environmental interest groups to propose new measures in the coming 18 months. Pro-shale member states and investors fear these would stifle the development of European shale gas development. Therefore, we argue that the Dutch government and the pro-shale coalition should adopt a qualified minority influencing strategy. Under transitional Lisbon treaty rules, such a qualified minority, comprised of the UK, Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary and the Netherlands, can block Commission regulations on shale with 93 votes in the European Council, until April 2017. Other potential members such as Romania, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania would ensure a qualified minority under new Lisbon voting rules, even after March 31st, 2017.
Newsletter, latest research and events