The European Commission has published a Green Paper, entitled "For a European Union energy policy", which is designed to stimulate discussion on the future of energy policy in the European Union and the role which the European Union institutions might play in that policy. In the Commission's view, a common vision is needed of the factors which will affect energy supply, production and consumption over the next 20 years. Whatever the energy resources of individual Member States, it is the Union as a whole which must respond to the challenges posed by the need to balance industrial competitiveness and the satisfaction of all users' needs at least cost against considerations of security of supply and environmental protection. A common effort is logical given that numerous factors influencing policy-making in the energy sector are by their nature transnational, particularly since policy-makers and operators must also meet the requirements of the internal market. There is therefore a clear need to reinforce the level of concerted action and cooperation between the decision-makers and the operators of energy policy within the Union. They must work towards the collective prioritization of political actions at both the Union and national level to ensure the convergence of national and Union policies for the benefit of the whole Union. However, at present the framework and mechanisms to encourage concerted action and cooperation are missing. Furthermore, the coherent development of policy instruments is hindered by the absence of clear responsibilities for the European Union institutions over energy policy. These responsibilities are recognized in the field of coal and nuclear power but not for other energy sources. The Green Paper calls for an open debate on how to deal with these problems within the framework of an integrated European market. Companies, workers and the general public alike are invited to contribute to the debate through their organizations and their representatives. This exercise will serve as the basis for defining the main principles of future European Union energy policy and the logic for its implementation. The analysis is based on the current situation of the energy sector and future prospects. The Paper examines the principal challenges facing the Union in the future and identifies the main geopolitical constraints as well as the constraints arising from the pressures of the regional dimension and the need for economic and social cohesion. The impact which major developments in technology and environmental concerns may have on the situation is also assessed. Recent developments in energy policy at the European Union level are discussed, as well as other Union policies which may have an effect on energy policy. Priorities for action at the Union level are examined, together with an analysis of the current responsibilities of the Union institutions in the sector.