Brussels parks, once again, Sánchez’s energy proposal


Correspondent in Brussels

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The European Council discussed gas price issues as requested for weeks by the President of the Spanish Government, Pedro Sánchez, but has left for a Council of Ministers next week the start of the debate between the Ministers of Economy and for the December summit the possible adoption of concrete measures. The Spanish president came to Brussels with great impetus and with the satisfaction that his request to include this matter on the meeting’s agenda has been heard, but he has not obtained the help he hoped for to alleviate a situation that affects all countries.

As soon as he arrived, Sánchez asked to meet separately with the president of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and with the president of the Council, Charles Michel, to try to lead the debate in the meeting that lasted all afternoon. It is not known whether he explained to them that he had made a public commitment to return the average price of electricity to last year’s levels before the end of 2021, but judging by the outcome of the deliberations that affect all countries differently and they are perceived unevenly. For Poland and the Eastern countries, Russia and its alleged speculative maneuvers with the price of gas are directly pointed out. France also views Russia with much criticism on the issue of energy, but at the same time it enjoys a formidable advantage over other countries thanks to its park of nuclear power plants that are not affected by the turbulence in world energy markets. Germany, which is not only the main country of the EU but also the first customer of Russian gas and which is about to inaugurate a superb direct gas pipeline, is practically not participating in the debates because Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was attending its European Council number 107 – an absolute record – was fired yesterday and cannot make decisions that compromise the political direction of his successor.

Upon arrival at the Council headquarters, Sánchez explained that “the increase in the price of energy does not only occur in Spain, but affects all countries and that is why we have asked the President of the Council and the Commission to see how you can act at the European level ”. Sánchez insists on the possibility of encouraging joint gas purchases as the Commission has done with vaccines, but the experts respond that it is a very complex possibility, firstly because there are many differences in the purchasing policies of each country and because there are not enough storage or interconnection infrastructures to make this formula efficient. Sánchez insists that it is the price of gas that “distorts” that of electricity and has even asked the Commission to “monitor the speculation that may occur in the CO2 emission markets” that are already controlled by the community executive .

And even taking into account this haste, Sánchez will have to wait for the report that the Commission has asked the Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER) to determine what can be done to mitigate prices and that it will not be available until the middle next month. «The objective is to continue advancing the debate, and that in December we will see the issue again. The Government of Spain would like to go faster, in Brussels progress is slower than we wish, but we continue to advance ».

Despite these considerations, the truth is that things have not changed much in the draft conclusions. The consensus is quite focused on the package of measures that the Commission proposed last week and that now seem “useful” to Sánchez, to try to help the most vulnerable consumers and companies, although for now he has not put them into practice more than partially. The Council insists that these measures must remain under surveillance and must be reversible but “invites governments” to use them. All the rest are ideas for the future, that the Commission and the Council consider medium and long-term measures that guarantee energy at an affordable price for homes and businesses, that increase the resilience of the EU energy system, that provide security supply and support the transition to climate neutrality. The European Investment Bank is also asked to study how to accelerate investment in the energy transition, “within its current capital margin”. That is, without making new investments. And the work will begin at the extraordinary meeting of the Council of Energy Ministers next Tuesday in which Teresa Ribera is scheduled to participate.

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