European energy ministers tasked the EU Commission to work through the weekend to rework plans to bring spiraling energy prices under control.
The commission has “a clear mandate to work out a viable proposal, or even better, viable proposals,” German Economy and Energy Minister Robert Habeck said after a summit of energy ministers in Brussels on Friday.
They failed to reach consensus on measures proposed by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen earlier in the week.
The Commission could present the reworked proposals for the member states as early as Tuesday.
The EU will table “unprecedented measures next week for an unprecedented situation,” said Energy Commissioner Kadri Samson.
EU Commission plan to cap Russian gas price contentious
The biggest sticking point appeared to be whether and how to impose a price cap on the amount the bloc pays for Russian gas.
“Russia has used its gas supplies as a weapon to foster an energy crisis next winter but also to weaken our economies and divide, politically the European Union,” Samson said. “We have to ensure that their efforts will fail.”
Member states in central and eastern Europe who still get gas from Russia feared retaliation by Moscow.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has been threatened to cut off supplies altogether if Europe imposed a cap.
Czech Industry and Trade Minister Jozef Sikela, whose country holds the EU presidency, said there was a “prevailing view” among EU countries that some form of price ceiling was necessary.
But he called for patience “to fine tune where properly … the cap should be implemented,” adding that nothing was decided at this stage.
There was also disagreement over how to cut energy demand, with mandatory cuts imposed if voluntary limits at peak hours fail. The commission wants that to be mandatory, but not all countries agree.
Ministers eye windfall revenues
One proposal with broad backing was to claw back some power producers’ revenues and use the money to curb consumer bills.
Ministers considered windfall levies on some energy companies, including nuclear and coal-powered plants, as their running costs haven’t risen as much as the gas companies.
“Taking some of those excess profits and recycling them back into the households makes sense,” Irish Environment Minister Eamon Ryan said.
Fossil fuel companies would also have to pay a “solidarity contribution,” a meeting summary said.
They also supported the executive’s proposal to offer emergency funds to power firms to keep operating as they struggle with volatile energy markets.
“There is no time to wait, and we have to be swift and united,” Sikela said.
lo/kb (AFP, AP, Reuters)