Pursuant to Chapter XV TEU, the European Union must aim to promote the development of Trans-European Networks as a key element for the creation of the Internal Market. Article 154 TEU specifically sets out the objectives of Community action as “contributing to the establishment and development of Trans-European Networks in the areas of transport, telecommunications and energy infrastructures.” This includes the development of the interconnection and interoperability of national networks as well as access to such networks.

The European Community Guidelines for TEN-Energy (the “TEN-E Guidelines”) were adopted for the first time in 1996 and have since been revised four times; most recently, in July 2006. Their general objective is to boost and accelerate the implementation and construction of connections and to increase the incentives for private investors. The TEN-E Guidelines identify missing links in the existing transmission infrastructure and rank them according to their impact on cross-border trade; those projects with the highest impact on cross-border interconnection capacity will rank the highest. This is of particular importance in the context of the EU’s energy forecast: On the whole, the EU is a netimporter of energy whose dependence on oil and gas imports is steadily increasing; with estimates that by 2030, on the basis of present trends, the EU will be 90% dependent on imports for its requirements of oil and 80% dependent regarding gas16.

To date, the TEN-E Guidelines have identified 42 “Projects of European Interest”. The natural gas projects of interest have long transport routes through neighbouring and third countries to the EU. In contrast, the electricity projects of interest have rather short links, with the exception of sea-bed cables, and they generate and distribute electricity mainly inside the EU.