[RIGA] Cheaper global oil prices present a "golden opportunity" for the European Union to advance its plans for a continent-wide energy union, a senior European Commission official said on Friday.
"We should use this breathing space with low oil and gas prices as a golden opportunity to reset our energy policies," European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic said on Friday in Latvia's capital Riga.
The Commission has drawn up what it calls five "pillars" of energy policy for the 28-member bloc. They include reducing carbon emissions, investing in technology, improving energy efficiency, developing a single European energy market and diversifying supply.
Mr Sefcovic said the European Commission will present its proposals for wider scrutiny by the end of February.
A key element of the plan is to reduce the bloc's dependence on Russian supplies of oil and gas amid mounting East-West tensions over the Ukraine crisis.
The European Union is Russian gas giant Gazprom's main client outside Russia and a major portion of Russian gas flows through war-torn Ukraine.
With the EU paying more than one billion euros (US$1.1 billion) per day for its energy supplies the EU needs to do more to wean itself off Russian supplies, Mr Sefcovic said.
The EU and the United States have imposed a raft of sanctions against Russia over its 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula and subsequent meddling in eastern Ukraine.
But their impact on Russian energy exports has been negligible due to the EU's heavy reliance on them.
Mr Sefcovic was echoed by EU Climate Action and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete.
"We must be serious about reducing our reliance on Russia, Gazprom being the only supplier holding a dominant position in the European Union markets," he said.