The EU heads of state and government are struggling to find a common response to the energy crisis

The EU heads of state and government are struggling to find a common response to the energy crisis


The EU heads of state and government are struggling to find a common response to the energy crisis

Prague (AFP) –

Max Delaney, Daniel Aronssohn

A meeting of EU leaders on Friday in Prague sought to bridge disagreements over how to deal with soaring energy prices as they grapple with the aftermath of Russia’s war with Ukraine.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy dialed in from Kyiv as the bloc seeks to maintain its economic and military support for Ukraine and take a hard line against Moscow.

EU leaders also discussed how to better protect their critical infrastructure following leaks in the Russia-Europe Nord Stream gas pipelines, which were accused of “sabotage”.

But it was sharp disagreements over how to tackle the energy crisis that took center stage as the 27 nations debated over the best plan to cut prices.

Europe faces an energy crisis as electricity generation prices soar due to a massive spike in gas prices caused by Russia turning off the taps.

Governments across the bloc are scrambling to bring down costs for their consumers, but rely on different sources of energy and disagree on the solutions.

EU executive Ursula von der Leyen is proposing a “roadmap” of measures to ease the burden – including possible measures to cap the price of gas.

However, there is no consensus on how caps could work and leaders are unlikely to make a firm decision until a summit in Brussels later this month.

“Now is the time to discuss how we can limit energy price spikes and energy price manipulation by (Russian President Vladimir) Putin,” von der Leyen told reporters.

“This will be the discussion of price caps, where and how to place them.”

– ‘Common denominator’ –

More than half of the bloc have been pushing for the EU to put a price cap on how much it would pay for gas delivered by pipelines or ships when winter hits the northern hemisphere.

But Germany has stood in the way so far over fears the move could divert valuable supplies away from Europe.

“A gas price cap, if that could be achieved, would be great, with the proviso that we cannot jeopardize security of supply,” said Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins.

“We cannot set the price in such a way that nobody sells gas to Europe.”

Berlin has come under fire from other EU members for getting stuck on the issue while announcing a €200 billion ($199 billion) fund to subsidize domestic gas purchases.

“My message to Germany is: be united with everyone else, because in difficult times everyone has to agree on a common denominator,” said Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.

The difficulty of containing energy utility prices was highlighted on Wednesday by the OPEC+ cartel’s agreement to cut oil production despite Western efforts to drain revenue from Moscow.

That decision appeared to undermine a G7 push for a cap on Russia’s oil price, backed by the EU in its latest sanctions package agreed this week.

Despite some dissatisfaction from Hungary, the bloc has managed to remain largely united in its opposition to the Kremlin as Putin escalated the conflict by claiming four occupied regions.

A broader summit of 44 nations from across Europe, held in Prague on Thursday, has highlighted Moscow’s isolation.

The EU is trying to maintain its support for Kyiv while Zelenskyy’s troops push back Russian forces on multiple fronts seven months into the war.

Ukraine is urging the EU to speed up much-needed economic support after Brussels on Monday signed a memorandum of understanding to provide five billion euros.

On the military front, the bloc plans to launch a training mission for Ukrainian forces later this month.

It has also envisioned a possible new arms financing tranche for Ukraine that would bring its total arms spending to €3 billion.

“Ukraine does not need our support tomorrow, Ukraine needs our support today, right now,” said Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda.

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