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Brussels tackles the energy crisis in all directions

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From 8:30 am on Friday 9 September, European energy ministers are expected in Brussels to try to reduce the impact of the current energy crisis, particularly on the citizens of the Old Continent.

They will thus have the whole day ahead of them to “building together, between Europeans, common positions and trying to reduce tensions on the energy markets, at the arrival of a winter that promises to be difficult in Europe”summarizes a tricolor source within the Ministry of Energy Transition.

Longer term questions for later

As the war continues to rage in Ukraine and the Europeans have been trying for months to manage the ensuing energy supply problems, this meeting should allow the 27 Member States of the European Union (EU) to agree on emergency instruments to preserve the integrity of this market.

Longer-term issues – such as the overhaul of the European energy market – are left for later (most likely for the first half of next year, according to the European Commission). And for good reason: in the short term, there is already a lot to do, on all fronts.

“Working at EU level is by far the best option”

The lines of work proposed by the European Commission, which the ministers must seize within the confines of the “Energy Council”, are all over the place: reduction of the demand for electricity; price caps for Russian gas transported by pipeline to Europe; creation of a “solidarity contribution” applied to gas and oil groups; limiting the income of nuclear and renewable electricity producers and supporting energy suppliers who need liquidity. The council was convened urgently by the Czech Presidency of the Council of the EU, because according to Prague, “working at EU level is by far the best option”.

To prevent ministers from moving forward in the dark, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, therefore laid her cards on the table on Wednesday, September 7, by unveiling a comprehensive plan, covering multiple aspects of this crisis, the time a press conference at midday.

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Rare fact: in the process, the European executive circulated its “non-paper” (a non-formal text which aims to frame the discussions at the highest level). This type of document is usually intended to be sent to the various delegations, but not to be made public. The Commission’s choice to reveal it says a lot about its desire to appear as a leading player in the resolution of this crisis – something it had struggled to do, for example, at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Send a clear signal to the Russian president”

“We call on energy ministers to adopt the Commission’s proposals as a whole and to send a clear signal to the Russian president: his strategy of using energy as a weapon to divide our society will not work,” says Belgian environmental MEP Philippe Lamberts.

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” In their whole “, this is the key to his message, because faced with a multifaceted crisis, it is impossible to concentrate the European response solely on one or the other component without risking losing effectiveness and provoking the discontent of Europeans.

However, the necessary legislation to achieve this is not yet on the table. Courageous but not reckless, the European Commission prefers to wait for the outcome of ministerial discussions before unveiling its final proposals next week.

A clever way of ensuring the support of a majority of Member States, if not all of them, if putting in place the “solidarity contribution” wanted by Ursula von der Leyen ultimately requires a unanimous vote… But, like many other things, this has not yet been decided.

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