updated 9/6/2005 3:02:11 PM ET 2005-09-06T19:02:11

The surge in oil prices threatens growth in Europe and could be a blow to already faltering efforts to reform Europe’s economy and make it more dynamic in the years ahead, the European Commission said Tuesday.

“The present very high oil prices are without doubt of concern to the European Union,” EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebals told a news conference at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France.

He said the EU Executive Commission was concerned that rising fuel costs will impact adversely not only on the well-being of “EU citizens but also regarding their effect on economic growth,” notably the ambitious goal to make the EU the world’s most dynamic economy by 2010.

The EU’s ambitious economic reform agenda — launched in 2000 — ranges from cutting red tape to labor market reforms to making significant investments in information technologies.

It has missed major targets in recent years, leading to friction between pro-free trade EU members led by Britain and more protectionist-minded countries led by France.

Piebals said high crude prices must encourage European governments to make investments in energy sources other than oil.

“We need to pay particular attention to renewable energy, as well as nuclear and coal,” he said.

A third of EU electricity is generated by nuclear power and “I expect that investments in the nuclear sector in Europe ... will grow,” Piebals added.

He said the European Commission will increase efforts to provide transparency in the energy sector to discourage price speculators through stricter monitoring of the oil and gas markets, and by “publishing, twice monthly, consolidated statistics on the oil security stocks in the European Union.”

At the moment, only 18 of the 25 EU nations are members of the International Energy Agency, giving EU officials an incomplete picture of the situation across the EU.

“Although the priority must be to reduce demand and to shift toward alternative and cleaner sources of energy ... in both the short and medium term the world will need an increase in the supply of oil and gas and more refining capacity,” Piebals said.

Under EU law, all 25 EU members must retain emergency oil reserves equivalent to 90 days’ normal consumption — significantly more than the U.S. Strategic Oil Reserve.

Piebals welcomed last Friday’s decision by the IEA to release reserve stocks in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Earlier, the Czech government said it was ready to release about 10,000 barrels of crude oil every day to eliminate possible market shortages and asked for the EU to pressure the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to increase oil production.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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