Belgium + 14: EU members push for united proposal for gas price cap this week
Fifteen European member states, including Belgium, want the European Commission to submit a proposal this week for the introduction of a general price ceiling for gas, so that the EU energy ministers can discuss it at their Council emergency meeting on Friday. Belga was able to view the letter on Tuesday evening.
A European price ceiling for gas has been discussed for several weeks. The Commission proposed its "emergency intervention" in the energy market on 14 September to bring down prices, but a proposal for such a price cap was not part of that. The energy ministers had asked the Commission to examine a general ceiling (for example, on all gas imported into Europe), but that work is still not finished.
Belgium is one of the Member States that is pushing hardest on the introduction of such a general ceiling, but other countries and the Commission invariably warn about security of supply and consider a ceiling on only Russian gas to be more workable.
Three days before the 27 energy ministers meet again to discuss the price crisis in the energy sector, 15 Member States sent a letter to Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson urging him to submit a proposal for the introduction of a general gas price cap, which Friday can already serve as a basis for discussion at the Energy council. Subsequently, the Commission must submit a formal legislative proposal "as soon as possible". Belgian Energy Minister Tinne Van der Straeten is one of the signatories.
The countries argue that a general price cap "can be designed in such a way as to ensure security of supply and the free flow of gas in Europe, while at the same time continuing to meet our target of decreasing demand for gas".
Belgium, Greece and Italy were the leaders of this letter. Eventually, the trio brought on board Bulgaria, Croatia, France, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain. Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark, in particular, are not convinced yet by a general price cap and therefore did not sign the letter.
The final decision on a price cap must not be approved unanimously, but by a so-called qualified majority. Together, the fifteen countries that have signed the letter narrowly fail to achieve this majority. For the introduction of a general ceiling, they will need the support of at least one other Member State.
© BELGA PHOTO (JOHN THYS / AFP) EU energy ministers at the EU headquarters in Brussels on Septembre 9, 2022.