May 28, 2023

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Measures to stop the increase in energy prices. EU leaders agree on ‘roadmap’

The leaders of the European Union agreed during the night from Thursday to Friday on a “road map” aimed at introducing, in the coming weeks, measures to stop the increase in energy prices, AFP comments.

The war in Ukraine and the sanctions imposed on Russia caused a shock to the prices of oil, gas and electricity. But, since February, Europe has been reacting slowly, weakened by the divergent interests of the member states.

If, at the end of tough negotiations, the bloc wanted to present a united front, there are still many points to be resolved, and the negotiations in the coming weeks are expected to be difficult.

“We now have a very good roadmap”, stressed the President of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, while the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, referred to “an agreement on a package of measures” to be “dealt with finesse”.

But the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, made it clear that if the energy ministers do not reach an agreement on a final version, a new summit of the heads of state will be needed.

The measures agreed by the EU leaders

According to the French president, Emmanuel Macron, the mechanisms considered could be implemented “at the end of October, the beginning of November”. He estimated that the leaders “sent to the markets a very clear signal of (their) determination and unity”.

According to the conclusions broadcast at the end of the meeting, the heads of state and government ask the Commission to send them “urgently” “concrete decisions” regarding a set of measures, including interventions to calm the volatility of gas prices, according to Agerpres.

The twenty-seven agreed to favor joint gas purchases at EU level, with the idea that they remain “voluntary” but cover at least a “mandatory” target level of 15% of the EU’s winter 2023 stock-filling targets.

They also called for “acceleration of negotiations” with “reliable” producing countries such as Norway and the United States to “take advantage of the aggregate economic weight” of the EU, rather than competing on the world market at the risk of fueling price fever.

Concession for Germany

In addition to a measure to control wholesale prices in natural gas transactions, leaders are also calling for a specific plan for a “temporary” mechanism to cap the price of gas used to produce electricity – a device already in place in Spain and Portugal and which France asked to be extended to the whole Union.

But, as a concession made to Germany, this mechanism will have to be accompanied by guarantees to “avoid any increase in gas consumption”. It will also have to prevent the EU from subsidizing electricity that will eventually be exported to neighboring countries (Norway, UK, Switzerland).

Asked about the Franco-German couple, the engine of European cooperation that seems to be in trouble, Emmanuel Macron said that the private discussion with the German chancellor made it possible to “clarify many things”.

A few hours earlier, he had estimated that Berlin was singing on its own, seeming to blame the Germans for Europe’s difficulties.

“I think it is not good either for Germany or for Europe to isolate itself (…). Our role is to do everything so that there is European unity and that Germany is part of it,” he said.

“It is very clear that Germany has always acted in a very solidary way,” answered Olaf Scholz.

The chancellor had been accused of selfishness after he announced at the end of September a 200 billion euro support plan for the German economy, without consultation with his partners.

And without consultation with Berlin, Paris announced an infrastructure project on Thursday, after years of deadlock: France, Spain and Portugal announced an agreement to replace the MidCat gas pipeline project with a submarine pipeline between Barcelona and Marseille, intended for the transport of gas and then green hydrogen.

Originally launched in 2003, the MidCat project – short for Midi (southern France) and Catalonia (northeast Spain), the two regions it would connect – was championed by Lisbon, Madrid and Berlin, but faced opposition Paris. The aim was to link the French and Spanish gas networks through a 190 km pipeline that runs from Hostalric, north of Barcelona, ​​to Barbaira, east of Carcassonne, through the Pyrenees Mountains.

At midnight, after more than 12 hours of negotiations between the 27, Emmanuel Macron and Olaf Scholz showed a certain desire for relaxation, the latter in particular evoking an “intense and fruitful” relationship. The two are to meet on Wednesday in Paris, concludes AFP.

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