Soaring gas prices reveal a split at the top of the EU
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Most Member States have already implemented tax cuts and subsidies to cushion some of the effects. But a group of countries led by Spain urged the council to act more decisively.
“We want to give the Council a sense of urgency,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro SÃ¡nchez told reporters, adding that he should speed up measures, warning that “the issue of energy prices may harm competitiveness of the EU “.
Madrid has spearheaded a proposal to jointly buy gas, increase the bargaining power of member states and crack down on speculation in carbon markets that pushes up prices.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawieck also warned that gas prices “could drastically reduce economic growth in Europe”.
But richer countries stressed the need to act thoughtfully and not make rash changes to how the energy market works, citing market uncertainty. “We have to find a solution without closing the markets,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte also preferred to wait for high prices, believing them to be temporary, and referred to the commission’s “toolbox” on energy prices – a series of measures countries can take to keep energy prices low without breaking EU laws.
Hungarian leader Victor Orban strongly opposed this, who blamed energy policies for the current high energy prices. He has devoted most of his vitriol to the proposed extension of the EU’s Emissions Trading System (ETS) to include housing and cars, which raises prices for consumers and locals. households.
“It will kill the middle class, which is the backbone of democracy,” he told reporters. “Those who raise the price of electricity and gas are endangering European democracy.”
Earlier in the week, Warsaw distributed a proposal arguing a possible postponement of parts of the EU climate package.
The Executive Director of the International Energy Agency, Fatih Birol, recently stressed that business leaders and lawmakers should not heed this kind of rhetoric: âThe recent increases in global natural gas prices are the result of multiple factors, and it is inaccurate and misleading to place responsibility on the gate for the clean energy transition. ”
Merkel told reporters that “the issue of rising energy prices should be decoupled from tackling climate change,” echoing calls from other leaders who want to double renewables, citing them as the best long-term solution to the crisis.
Three of the smaller EU member states, Denmark, Belgium and Estonia, called on G20 countries to improve their climate game ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow in November and to “follow the EU’s lead” on climate change.
“Join us,” said Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo. âIn the long term, there is only one solution to high energy prices: renewable energies.
What is “renewable”?
But deep differences exist between EU member states on what constitutes renewable energy.
Poland and the Czech Republic want the Council to support gas as a transitional fuel towards a green economy. And France is at the head of a group of 10 countries pushing to include nuclear energy in the EU’s guidelines for green investments – the “EU taxonomy”.
This was strongly opposed by Xavier Bettel, the Prime Minister of Luxembourg. “Nuclear power has no future,” he said as he entered the Council building.
EU leaders presented the preliminary results of the debates around midnight. The council is backing the commission to monitor the functioning of the gas and carbon markets, giving in to Spanish demands to potentially curb speculation. The line on nuclear energy was removed from the final text, and a decision on gas as a transitional fuel was postponed
Environment ministers will continue discussions at an emergency meeting in Luxembourg on October 26.