Fri. Sep 30th, 2022
EU nations struggle to find joint approach on energy prices

BRUSSELS — European Union nations struggled to seek out full consensus Friday on methods to defend the inhabitants from dramatically increasing energy prices that threaten to plunge hundreds of thousands into chilly and poverty over the winter as Russia chokes off pure fuel provides.

As tensions with Moscow mount over the war in Ukraine, the power ministers of the EU’s 27 nations couldn’t paper over variations on whether or not and how you can impose a worth cap on Russian pure fuel, with ever-recalcitrant Hungary refusing to agree, saying it could go in opposition to its provide pursuits.

Different nations differed on whether or not a worth cap ought to apply solely to Russia or to different producers, too.

That “reveals that this can be a troublesome difficulty and that the (European) Fee had a special objective,” stated Agata Loskot-Strachota, senior fellow for power coverage on the Heart for Jap Research in Warsaw. Whereas EU members are most serious about reducing costs and getting sufficient fuel, “the fee geared toward limiting Russia’s revenues and, I believe, taking again management of the state of affairs on the European fuel market.”

An instantaneous resolution on all proposals to bring natural gas and electricity prices back to affordability had not been anticipated, however power ministers gave normal suggestions to the European Fee, the EU’s government department, on choices like instituting windfall levies on some power firms whose earnings have risen together with skyrocketing costs.

Moscow’s fuel restrictions and risk of a full cutoff has dominated the political agenda of a wealthy bloc of countries struggling to make sure fundamental companies like warmth and lightweight. Russia has cut back supplies of natural gas that energy factories, generate electrical energy and warmth properties, driving up costs and fueling inflation that’s poised to tip Europe into recession later this yr.

“Russia has used its fuel provides as a weapon to foster an power disaster subsequent winter but additionally to weaken our economies and divide — politically — the European Union,” EU Power Commissioner Kadri Simson stated. “We have now to make sure that their efforts will fail.”

Czech Trade Minister Jozef Sikela, chair of the emergency assembly, exhorted his colleagues: “We can’t be blackmailed.”

Sikela and others stated that exterior the fuel cap, a large diploma of convergence was discovered different potential measures. Apart from windfall levies, they embrace solidarity contributions from fossil gas producers and money will increase for companies to maintain working as they wrestle with unstable power markets.

Irish Minister Eamon Ryan insisted that motion should be taken “inside weeks, not months.” This coming fall, “after we’re actually going to see the excessive costs having impact, that’s after we want the assist, that’s when we have to get a few of that cash,” he informed reporters in Brussels.

“There is no such thing as a time to attend, and we’ve got to be swift and united,” Sikela stated.

Regardless of the urgency, with a number of northern nations feeling the primary chill within the morning air saying the onset of autumn, the ministers gave solely tips to the EU fee, which is able to current a proposal for the member states subsequent week.

At that time, the EU nations will reassess once more, and the hope is {that a} determination might be made by the top of this month.

German Economic system and Power Minister Robert Habeck stated the fee has “a transparent mandate to work out a viable proposal — and even higher, viable proposals” to convey down costs. Friday’s assembly mirrored totally different conditions amongst EU members, however “everybody was decided to result in aid for European residents, so no settlement isn’t an choice,” Habeck stated.

Whereas hoping for fast progress, Germany is conserving open the choice of imposing a levy on excessive power earnings whose proceeds could be handed to customers “if it takes too lengthy,” he stated.

“We are able to’t take this card off the desk as a result of the opposite, higher manner — specifically bringing down costs — might actually be sophisticated,” Habeck stated. “We’re doing one thing that impacts the center of European power provide — we’re intervening within the markets.”

The power disaster isn’t solely threatening households but additionally trade, with energy-intensive factories being forced to close. Fee President Ursula von der Leyen stated Russia is “blackmailing” the EU with its threat to turn off the gas to the bloc. Moscow has already lower provides partially or solely to 13 EU nations, blaming alleged technical points and sanctions.

Russian pipeline fuel accounted for 40% of all fuel Europe imported earlier than President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine in February, however now it solely accounts for 9%.

The fee believes the EU is ready for the winter, with joint fuel storage ranges at 82% — nicely forward of the 80% goal that had been set for the top of October.

Related Press writers Lorne Cook dinner and Samuel Petrequin in Brussels; David McHugh in Frankfurt, Germany; and Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed.

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