BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union on Friday intensified its mission to shield the population from dramatically increasing energy costs that could dump millions into cold and poverty over the winter in the wake of Russia’s war in Ukraine that is driving up global energy prices.
The energy ministers of the 27 member nations gathered in an emergency meeting and were hoping to overcome the differing views on various proposals to keep gas and electricity prices within the realm of the affordable. They range from windfall taxes on some companies to setting a price cap on buying Russian gas.
Officials said it was unlikely the ministers would find full agreement on Friday, with the implementation of a price cap on Russian gas among the outstanding issues.
They might agree to provide liquidity support to energy companies to deal with the extraordinary situation and measures on how to impose electricity reductions similar to those already agreed on gas.
“There is no time to wait and we have to be swift and united,” said Jozelf Sikela, industry minister of the Czech Republic, which chaired Friday’s meeting.
Despite the urgency, with the first chill in the morning air in several northern nations announcing the onset of autumn, the ministers on Friday will only give guidelines to the executive Commission, which will present a firm proposal for the member states next week.
At that point the member states will reassess again, and the hope is that a firm decision can be taken by early next month.
The European Commission has already called for a price cap on Russian natural gas and is seeking a “solidarity contribution” from European oil and gas companies that have made extraordinary profits from the rise in energy costs.
The energy crisis is not only threatening households but also industry, with fears energy-intensive factories could be forced to close. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Russia is “blackmailing” the EU with its threat to turn off the gas to the bloc. Moscow has already cut gas supplies partially or entirely to 13 EU countries.
Russian pipeline gas accounted for 40% of all imported gas into Europe before President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine in February, but now only accounts for 9%.
The commission believes the EU is prepared for the winter, with joint gas storage levels at 82%; well ahead of the 80% target that had been set for the end of October.
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