Countries ‘furious’ over EU’s reluctance to consider gas price cap – POLITICO

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The European Commission has some explaining to do on Friday when national energy ministers bring together to discuss ways to reduce energy prices, several diplomats said.

They want to know why Brussels has still not detailed what a cap on the price of imported natural gas might look like – three weeks after being asked to do so at the last Emergency Energy Council.

This request was pressed again this week by 15 energy ministers, who sent a letter to Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson urging she to prepare a detailed menu of gas cap options before Friday, “followed by a legislative proposal as soon as possible”.

Despite the growing dynamic of direct intervention in the gas market, the European executive persists.

A Commission policy paper intended to guide Friday’s discussion consists mainly of warnings against capping the price of all gas imports, and encouraging countries to consume less and renegotiate better supply contracts with “reliable” suppliers such as Norway and Algeria.

It also re-proposes Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s widely rejected idea of ​​only capping the price of Russian gas imports.

A national diplomat summed up the general reaction to the heated political remnants: “Damn, is that it?”

“It’s been three weeks since we said what we needed, and the Commission is only focused on the risks,” complained another. “If we only talk about the cons and not the pros, we won’t get much further.”

Countries “are furious that the Commission is playing hide and seek on a gas price cap”, said a third diplomat.

“Many countries have criticized the newspaper, and we will say this very clearly [on Friday]“said a fourth.

“Let’s hope that the Commission will take into account the outcome of the discussion and not push its own idea of ​​a Russian-only ceiling any further,” said a fifth EU diplomat.

A draft Council compromise obtained by POLITICO shows agreement on less controversial measures, such as a 10% reduction in electricity demand during the winter period and exceptional taxes on energy producers.

But on gas, “don’t expect anything definitive”, warned a Commission official.

As capitals prepare for the fight, Brussels insists it is doing all it can – even if it is playing longer.

“There is no confrontation, we are looking for common ground to deal with an exceptional situation,” a second Commission official said on Thursday. On gas price caps, “we have taken the lead in addressing the risks…but of course if member states believe we need to move in that direction, we will deepen our analysis”.

This is when EU countries say they don’t have one: the heating season starts on Saturday and spot gas prices are still almost five times higher than a year ago.

But Paris, at least, says Brussels is slowly – albeit reluctantly – moving closer to the idea of ​​allowing gas prices to be subsidized.

“The Commission has set out its preliminary ideas, which go in the right direction…including the possible extension of the Iberian mechanism to the whole EU market,” said an official from the French energy ministry.

This refers to a special system set up by Spain and Portugal, under which the price of gas used for electricity generation is partially subsidised, with the aim of bringing down electricity prices – without intervene directly in the bidding process on wholesale markets.

Germany announced on Thursday that it would implement its own version, issuing 200 billion euros in new debt to set a cap on wholesale gas prices and pay the difference between that cap and the actual cost of imports. from global suppliers.

The issue is highly political and will be discussed further by EU leaders during a informal meeting in Prague next month.

Karl Mathiesen and Charlie Cooper contributed reporting.

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