The European Union has stepped up efforts to protect people from rising energy costs that could throw millions into the cold and poverty this winter, as Russia’s war in Ukraine pushes up global oil prices. energy
Energy ministers from the 27 member countries met in an emergency meeting in Brussels and hoped to overcome divergent views on various proposals to keep gas and electricity prices within the affordable range.
They range from unexpected taxes on some companies to setting a price cap for buying Russian gas.
Officials said ministers were unlikely to reach a full deal on Friday, with the implementation of a price cap on Russian gas among the outstanding issues.
They could agree to provide liquidity support to energy companies to deal with the emergency situation and measures on how to impose electricity reductions similar to those already agreed on gas.
“There is no time to wait and we must be quick and united,” said Jozelf Sikela, the Czech Republic’s industry minister, who chaired Friday’s meeting.
Despite the urgency, with the first chill in the morning air in several northern nations heralding the start of autumn, ministers will only give guidance to the Executive Commission, which will present a firm proposal to member states next week.
Member states will then reassess themselves, with the hope that a firm decision can be made 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 windfalls from rising energy costs.
The energy crisis not only threatens homes, but also industry, with fears that energy-intensive factories could be forced to close.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Russia is “blackmailing” the EU with its threat to cut off gas to the bloc.
Moscow has already partially or completely cut off gas supplies to 13 EU countries.
The Russian pipeline accounted for 40% of all gas imported into Europe before President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine in February, but now accounts for just 9%.
The Commission believes that the EU is ready for winter, with joint gas storage levels of 82%; well ahead of the 80% target that had been set for the end of October.