'We expected more ambition': Belgian MEPs react to von der Leyen's State of the Union
Belgian members of the European Parliament had mixed reactions to Commission President Ursula von der Leyen's State of the Union on Wednesday. As expected, tackling the energy crisis in Europe took centre stage in von der Leyen's policy speech. The Flemish green party Groen (EGP) was pleased to see energy companies' excess profits "finally being addressed" and celebrated the Commission's commitment to the Green Deal. According to the Flemish nationalist party N-VA (ECR), on the other hand, the European Union is "failing in its duty to protect its citizens and economy".
Von der Leyen put forward a package of measures to help keep high energy prices down, but those measures will not be effective according to MEP Johan Van Overtveldt (N-VA, ECR).
"The Commission faces diverging interests and has to hope for the approval of all member states. In practice, that will mean that concrete effects will be a long time coming" - Van Overtveldt
The Commission can also only hope for the cooperation of member states with regard to mandatory savings on energy consumption, according to Van Overtveldt.
Several Belgian MEPs expected to learn more about the general price cap on gas, which the Commission is to examine at the request of Europe's energy ministers. "On that front, she remained a bit too vague," said Hilde Vautmans (Open VLD, ALDE).
"We expected more ambition and concrete timelines" - Vautmans
The far-right party Vlaams Belang also believes a price cap on gas prices is necessary. "Nobody benefits from simplistic advice to reduce one's own consumption," says Gerolf Annemans (Vlaams Belang, ID). "Let's be clear: whoever expects a solution from the EU is consulting the enemy. After all, it is the European Union itself, with its green dogmatism, by shutting down nuclear power plants and by destabilising our energy supply, which helped trigger the explosion in energy prices long before the Russian invasion of Ukraine."
Sara Matthieu (Groen, EGP) is pleased that the Commission is "finally" tackling energy companies' excess profits. "We should use the proceeds to insulate the worst homes and install solar panels to reduce energy bills." The price cap on gas should be introduced as soon as possible, since "the announcement alone made prices fall".
Matthieu also welcomed the Commission's commitment to the Green Deal, as "the only form of energy that will become cheaper is renewable energy".
During her State of the Union, von der Leyen showed that she has her priorities straight, says Kathleen Van Brempt (Vooruit, S&D). Von der Leyen talked about decoupling electricity and gas prices, reforming the energy market, skimming excess profits and several measures to bring down the price of gas and LNG. What was missing from the speech, according to Van Brempt, was a concrete initiative to cap the price of all gas.
"Time is running out and we need action and decisiveness now" - Van Brempt
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivers her 'State of the European Union' speech on September 14, 2022 © FREDERICK FLORIN / AFP