The European Commission on Thursday proposed new rules to improve security of gas supplies in the framework of the internal gas market.
The proposed legislation would strengthen the existing European Union (EU) system for gas supply security by ensuring that all member states and their gas market players take effective action well in advance to prevent and mitigate the consequences of potential disruptions to gas supplies.
It also would create mechanisms for member states to work together to deal effectively with any major gas disruptions which might arise.
"Increasing energy security will be one of the top priorities in the coming years. We need to work for the best but make sure we are prepared for the worst," said European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.
The proposed regulation would provide a common indicator to define a serious gas supply disruption.
It would require all member states to have a competent authority that would be responsible for monitoring gas supply developments, assessing risks to supplies, establishing preventive action plans and setting up emergency plans.
It would also oblige member states to collaborate closely in a crisis, including through a strengthened Gas Coordination Group and through shared access to reliable supply information and data.
The EU is a major gas consumer, and the disruption of gas supply as a result of a Ukraine-Russia gas dispute in January 2009 demonstrated weaknesses in the current mechanisms for dealing with supply disruptions.
Gas now represents more than one quarter of energy supply in the EU. Over half of this gas comes from external sources, and by 2020 over 80 percent of EU gas is likely to be imported. Some member states are already totally dependent on imported gas.