By Martin Banks - 14th June 2011
It is a cleft stick
French president Nicolas Sarkozy has made an impassioned appeal for nuclear energy to remain part of Europe's energy mix.
Speaking at a Brussels conference on Tuesday, Sarkozy said that while it was right to consider alternative sources of energy, such as wind and solar, nuclear should remain an option.
His comments come in the wake of the nuclear disaster in Japan earlier this year and Germany's recent decision to phase out its nuclear reactors.
France has traditionally relied heavily on nuclear for its energy supplies in the past. Nuclear still accounts for almost 80 per cent of the country's energy mix, one of the highest in the world.
But the commission wants 20 per cent of Europe's energy mix to come from renewables by the year 2020.
Sarkozy said that France had made a "big contribution" in promoting the use of renewable energy but added, "Even so, we cannot rely on sun and wind to meet our energy needs."
He added, "We fully support the European commission's environmental measures but you have to ask how we are going to meet our future energy needs.
"We cannot wait for renewables (to become fully available) without having nuclear energy in the mix."
The president was speaking at an international conference on commodities and raw material at the commission's Charlemagne building.
He said the rising cost of raw materials posed a "severe" threat to Europe's economic growth, adding, "They are becoming more and more scarce and the very time when we need them more.
"It is a cleft stick. Without access to raw materials industry runs the risk of becoming paralysed."
Calling for more regulation for the commodities sector, he warned that unless "immediate action" was taken this issue would become as serious as the economic downturn.
He said, "Let us remember that de-regulation of the financial markets brought us to the edge of the abyss. Are we going to going to do the same in the world of commodities and raw materials?"
"A market with no rules is no longer a market. What caused catastrophe for the financial markets can lead to the same catastrophe on the raw materials market," he said.
"Regulation does not mean control, it does not mean fixing prices arbitrarily," Sarkozy said, adding that more transparency was needed in the markets.
Sarkozy, who has made tackling rising commodity prices a core priority of his country's presidency of the G20, warned that the prospect of rising inflation in emerging countries could exacerbate global imbalances.
He told the conference, organised by the commission, that the industry faced a "triple challenge" of production, transparency and regulation.
He went on, "Regulation does not mean more control and protectionism. I accept that that will not work and that is why we need to find a balance."
Addressing the same conference, commission president José Manuel Barroso called for "reinforced" international cooperation in tackling the current "volatility" of commodity prices.
He said, "Raw materials represent a huge volume in international trade and it is all our interests to find a solution to this issue.
"Lack of transparency in the sector is one issue and better regulation is undoubtedly called for. There needs to be an adequate and balanced level of regulation in the raw materials market."