EU summit without decision on energy prices would be European failure, says Belgian PM
Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo warned that the European summit on Thursday and Friday must decide on measures to better control energy prices and protect families and businesses. "The time is now to send an unequivocal political signal that we have the will to no longer tolerate high gas prices. The opposite would be totally irresponsible, the failure of Europe," he told the House on Monday.
In the European Affairs Committee, De Croo looked back at the Prague summit and ahead to the summit at the end of this week. The energy crisis and the European response to it dominate his agenda. "Europe is facing the week of truth. It is up or down. The time for excuses is up," De Croo said. For him, the summit is therefore "the most important European Council in a long time".
To avoid a repeat of last spring and summer's price race in the energy markets, leaders must decide in principle on solidarity, price control and the joint purchase of gas. That way, legal and operational preparations will be ready by spring 2023, De Croo argued.
For Belgium, the European Union should use its collective weight by engaging in the group purchase of gas on world markets. "This is best done by creating a European cartel that has sufficient critical mass of European energy companies that can conclude long-term contracts, without competing with other European players to do so," De Croo said. "This is the best guarantee to ensure security of supply and to keep the price down."
Such group purchases must be accompanied by binding supply solidarity agreements between member states, De Croo said. Concretely, this means that countries with a higher dependence on Russian gas or countries with difficult access to lng should be assured that their gas supply will remain sufficient. Belgium is also open to making further agreements to control and, where possible, further reduce gas demand.
For months, Belgium has been trying to hammer home a particular point: there should also be a ceiling on gas prices in the context of the crisis. For De Croo, the decision in principle to work out a "temporary and urgent intervention in the gas price on the wholesale market" should finally be taken this week. "Provided there are sufficiently clear agreements around security of supply and solidarity, it should be possible to finally take this step." The PM is hopeful, "more so than in recent weeks", that this will succeed. Together with Italy, Poland and Greece, Belgium has already worked out a new proposal for a "dynamic gas price corridor".
Finally, De Croo also wants to accelerate the reform of the gas price index (TTF) and the energy market.
© BELGA PHOTO NICOLAS MAETERLINCK