BERLIN Germany wants to ensure the European Commission does not overstep its powers on energy policy, a particularly sensitive issue as the country exits nuclear power, Economy Minister Philipp Roesler said in an interview with Reuters on Monday.
Germany has clashed numerous times with Brussels over energy issues in recent years, including after Brussels proposed direct state subsidies for nuclear power. Brussels is now investigating grid fee exemptions that Germany's big power-using firms enjoy.
This issue has profound implications for the international competitiveness of German industry, which pays some of the highest prices for power in the European Union.
Asked about comments by Chancellor Angela Merkel last week that there may be scope to wrestle certain powers back from Brussels after a German election next month, Roesler pointed to the energy sector, saying: "We don't want any meddling in energy policy."
He said the competencies of the executive European Commission and both the federal and state governments in Germany were clearly defined and should be upheld, suggesting officials in Brussels had overstepped in the past.
Merkel said in July she would fight Brussels for a disputed clause within Germany's renewable energy law that exempts energy-intensive industries from charges that other consumers must pay, after a German association representing private consumers turned to European Union regulators.
Last week, Merkel said in a television interview that the Commission had received a lot more powers under the EU's Lisbon Treaty, posing the question whether it should give some back. She did not specifically mention the energy sector.
Roesler said there were some questions, such as power grid expansion, which had to be discussed and solved together.
But he reminded the Commission of its own guidelines, which state that decisions should be taken as locally as possible, and the EU is responsible only when EU laws are at risk, or when it can act more efficiently than other legal bodies.
(Reporting by Alexandra Hudson, Noah Barkin, Gernot Heller, Matthias Baehr, Andreas Rinke, Rene Wagner; Editing by Dale Hudson)