The EU is faced with multiple challenges in the energy sector. Along with the ongoing efforts to liberalise the energy market, the EU is challenged by a geo-political dependency problem towards Russia, and the very serious threat of global warming. The European Commission has taken the lead in this process to create a comprehensive approach to tackle these challenges. Ernst B. Haas’ (1958) seminal work “The Uniting of Europe” introduced neofunctionalism as a theoretical tool to assess integration in Europe. “Spillover” and “loyalty shift” are two central terms in this approach. Spillover is the process of expansion of EU competences, and loyalty shift is used to illustrate how interest groups and decision makers turn their political expectations to the new level of governance (Rosamond 2000: 59-68). With these terms guiding the analysis, I argue that the European Commission is a driver of integration in the energy sector.
This development will be analysed in two stages using different cases. The first case analyses the development of an Internal Market for energy, culminating in the debate over the 2007 3rd liberalisation package on energy markets. I show how the Commission has been successful in using a method of “concession and proposal” to create a political spillover effects to expand EU competencies in energy markets. Furthermore, this case evaluates the degree of loyalty shifts among German stakeholders by analysing reasons for opposition and historical changes in the perception of EU energy policy. The second case provides the context for the Energy Policy for Europe (EPE). Here, the Commission induce political spillover and loyalty shift to the external dimension of energy policy by using issue linkage between climate change, the Internal Market and supply security. The last chapter evaluate the neofunctionalist approach to integration using contemporary theoretical contributions to EU studies. The evidence for loyalty shift and spillover in the energy sector is modified by persisting national constraints and evidence of multi-level political orientations. Furthermore, the political spillover process could not be possible without favourable external circumstances.