The war in Ukraine and the sanctions imposed on Russia have caused a shock to the prices of oil, gas and electricity. But, since February, Europe has reacted slowly, weakened by the divergent interests of the member countries.
The Franco-German couple, the engine of European cooperation, seems to have broken up. The meeting of the ministers of the two countries, scheduled for October 26 in Fontainebleau (France), has been postponed to January.
Upon his arrival in Brussels, French President Emmanuel Macron said he was determined to preserve “friendship and alliance“with Germany”.We have a lot of work ahead of us“, However, he acknowledged, referring to the upcoming summit, before a head-to-head with the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in the early afternoon.
A crucial European summit. Alexander De Croo, the Belgian prime minister, said he has been one of the most important in a long time, adding that if there were no turnaround on energy prices it would be Europe’s failure. In Brussels, @ paulgermaintv5 pic.twitter.com/n7lv47tUOw
– TV5MONDE information (@ TV5MONDEINFO) October 20, 2022
This vertex is “land most important for a long time“Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo warned this week. If it doesn’t lead to a”a clear political signal that we are willing to no longer tolerate high gas prices“, Sara “the failure of Europe“, he threw.
But there is an emergency, with thousands of European companies fearing for their survival, threatened by competition in the United States or Asia where prices have remained wiser. In Germany and France, demonstrations have brought together thousands of people against the high cost of living.
Several diplomats expect lengthy discussions between the 27 heads of state and government.
In an interview with AFP, the Spanish minister for ecological transition, Teresa Ribera, openly criticized the work of the European Commission. “The proposals are still a bit timid: concrete measures are still lacking on a large majority of topics. There has certainly been a real effort for a year (…) but it is frustrating to see how slow and laborious is Europe’s reaction to the challenge we are facing“, he said.
During the last Prague summit, in early October, several leaders targeted the German president of the European executive, Ursula von der Leyen. The head of the Polish government, Mateusz Morawiecki, had especially accused him of representing German interests. “Seven months late is worth a recession“, had launched the Italian Mario Draghi, according to the comments reported to the AFP.
Berlin opposes the limit on gas prices
But the president of the Commission faces disagreements among the 27 who each have their own energy mix, some who rely on nuclear power, others on gas or even coal to produce electricity.
They are divided in particular on the question of a cap on the price of gas used for the production of electricity. A device of this type is already applied in Spain and Portugal, where it has helped to bring down prices.
Several countries, including France, are calling for the extension of this mechanism, he says “Iberian“, across the EU.
But Germany is opposed, as are several Nordic countries, including Denmark and the Netherlands, which are reluctant to state intervention in the markets.
Berlin believes that artificially lowering the price of gas would undermine the goal of energy sobriety by encouraging people to consume more.
However, the draft conclusions of the summit invited the Commission to prepare a proposal for this instrument. “The Iberian model deserves to be studied. The questions remain unanswered, but I don’t want to overlook any leads“Said Ms von der Leyen on Wednesday.
A ceiling on the price of imports is excluded. Set a maximum price “it always carries the risk that producers then sell their gas elsewhere and that we Europeans end up with less gas instead of more“, Hammered Olaf Scholz in front of the Bundestag.
Ms von der Leyen detailed other proposals this week: joint gas purchases, new rules to try to impose gas sharing in Europe to help the most troubled countries or even a reform of the TTF gas market index (the ” European Gas Exchange “), used as a reference in operators’ operations.
“There has been a lot of progress, but no major breakthroughs“, recognizes a European diplomat.”The priorities are different: Germany favors security of supply because it can afford high prices, but many countries cannot bear these costs“.