Amid divisions, sharp discussions and disagreements, the energy ministers of the European Union countries, during their emergency meeting Tuesday in Luxembourg, failed to reach an agreement on facing the recent energy price crisis.
The meeting also failed to agree on the set of ideas put forward by the European Commission earlier this month, which is based on contributing to protecting consumers and companies from the repercussions of the rapid rise in energy prices without harming competition rules, in light of the many divisions between member states on how to help companies and consumers. In the face of high natural gas prices.
European Commission interventions
In media statements earlier this month, the European Commission on Energy, Kadri Simson, indicated that among the proposed measures were the provision of emergency income support to families, government aid to companies and the adoption of targeted tax cuts.
The Commission is also considering medium-term reforms to make the European energy market more resistant to price fluctuations.
“As we emerge from the coronavirus pandemic and begin our economic recovery, it is important to protect vulnerable consumers and support European businesses,” Simpson said, before adding, “The Commission is helping member states take immediate action to limit the impact on consumers and businesses this winter.”
Ideas also include measures to counter future price fluctuations, as the Commission is considering a proposal to jointly purchase and store gas, as well as create a European energy market.
Prior to the Luxembourg meeting, a number of member states called on the European Union to provide new intervention tools to limit the repercussions of the price hike, while other countries, including Austria, Denmark, Finland and the Netherlands, issued a joint statement rejecting any intervention, on the grounds that the current price hike is temporary and should not lead To hasty changes in energy laws and ambitious reforms to address climate change in the European Union.
According to the joint statement, which was also signed by Germany, Estonia, Ireland, Luxembourg and Latvia, “If the rise in prices is caused by global drivers, we must be very careful before interfering in the design of the internal energy markets of the member states of the European Union as a whole.”
The same situation continued during the meeting of energy ministers in Luxembourg, where 11 countries retained their position rejecting the reform of the European internal energy market.
These are the same countries that believe that the gas market will regulate itself, and that prices will fall on their own after the winter. Among them are Germany, Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands, which strongly oppose the idea of separating gas prices from electricity prices. In return, Spain, supported by Greece and France, pressed In order to carry out large-scale reforms of the energy market in the European Union.
In this direction, Spain has officially proposed to allow countries that wish to do so, at least temporarily, from the rule of separating gas prices from electricity prices, and this applies in particular to France, which relies almost entirely on nuclear energy and the rest of alternative renewable energies in the production of electricity.
Nuclear energy was one of the causes of tension and major disagreements that accompanied the meetings of energy ministers in Luxembourg, especially between France and Germany. France requested its inclusion as a carbon-free energy source, which qualifies it for green financing. The European Commission supports this request, which Germany, Austria and Luxembourg strongly reject.
Energy prices in France have recently witnessed a record increase, and high energy bills such as gas, electricity and fuel, according to some observers, may lead to a deterioration in the purchasing power of consumers, which will further slow down the economic recovery from the crisis caused by the Corona virus.
Therefore, the French government asked companies to reduce their activities to conserve energy, and also set a price ceiling to prevent a further rise in energy prices.
In this context, the Prime Minister pledged, in a television interview in October, to give all poor and medium families whose income is less than 2,000 euros, an amount of 100 euros (120 dollars) as assistance to cope with high energy prices, while Italy expressed its desire to reduce the burden of energy prices. Energy through some tax cuts, in addition to other measures.
In a reading of the energy crisis in Europe and the results of the meeting of European energy ministers and their divisions, the international energy expert and former director general of the International Electricity Union, George Lusignet, believes that after the health crisis and the remnants of the Corona virus, and with the return of the global economy to its previous activity, it is very natural for energy prices to rise from Oil and gas.
He added, in a statement to Al Jazeera Net, that the real problem lies in the fact that European countries are not experiencing the energy crisis today with the same severity, because each country has its own situation and energy capabilities.
Germany, for example, which generates electricity through coal and gas, does not agree to a reduction in electricity prices, and this applies to Poland as well, while we find a country like France, which generates 90% of its electricity through renewable energy sources such as nuclear energy and hydrogen, against the increase in electricity prices The rise in gas and oil prices has nothing to do with electricity from the French point of view.
He continued, “From this perspective, it is not surprising to find this difference in positions between energy ministers and European countries, especially between France and Germany, because each country evaluates the crisis according to its energy capabilities, and according to its ability to act and move.”
Regarding the repercussions of the future energy crisis on Europe, Lucenet stressed that the repercussions will be large and deep on Europe, with no clear and practical solutions in the short and medium term.
He added, “The future will be very high energy, because the continent of Europe has no energy sources and has no oil or gas, but only some coal in Poland and Germany, and coal cannot rely on it much because it is an energy source that pollutes the environment and contributes to climate change.”
Therefore, if the Europeans want to achieve their independence in the energy field, they must invest in the production of alternative renewable energies, and rely on nuclear, solar and hydrogen energy. It is a real independence issue. Either you try to produce your own energy and control costs and the prices of electricity, gas and gasoline, or you depend You import energy from other countries and allocate a huge budget for imports and lose your independence and ability to control prices.”
Absence of a European energy strategy
In response to a question: Do these divisions in attitudes reflect the absence of a unified European strategy in the field of energy, the former official in charge of electricity in France and the former director general of the International Electricity Union, told Al Jazeera Net, “I think that the Corona crisis revealed to us that Europe has no healthy independence and revealed that there is no strategy A clear and unified European health.. In the same context, it revealed The current energy crisis is that there is no unified European energy policy and strategy.
He concluded his statement, stressing that “instead of the European politicians’ interest in side issues such as immigration and so on, they should be aware of the seriousness of this situation and discuss such serious and important issues as energy, health and defense, to find urgent solutions for them because the future is uncertain in this area.”
He said, “It is unfortunate that for all these important issues there is no clear European policy and serious discussion, and therefore it is natural for the European continent to decline among the rest of the nations because it does not have a smart and practical policy and strategy in important and immediate issues such as the issue of energy.”