The Heads of State and Government of the Twenty-Seven, who will meet at the castle of the Czech capital, will discuss new measures proposed by the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.
The energy strategy divides the Franco-German couple and lively debates are expected the day after a more consensual day devoted to the launch of the European Political Community.
The economy of the Old Continent is totally dependent on its hydrocarbon imports and is suffering like no other from the supply cuts imposed by Russia.
But it is struggling to find a common response, as interests diverge between countries that rely on nuclear power like France, those that rely on coal like Germany, or those that are historically linked to Russian hydrocarbons in central Europe.
– Temptation of the solo rider –
Frustrated by Europe’s slowness, the leaders of EU member countries risk giving in to the temptation of going it alone.
Germany caused an outcry when it announced a 200 billion euro plan last week to protect its economy. France had also unilaterally reduced fuel prices at the pump.
“Some countries think they can do it on their own, with their own budget. You can do it for a few months. Then it’s a race to see who has the deepest pockets. But, at some point, even the the deepest pockets have their limits,” Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo warned on Thursday.
In a letter to the Twenty-Seven on Wednesday, Ms. von der Leyen agreed to “consider a cap on gas prices” paid to exporting countries. Fifteen member states, including France, are calling for it.
Germany, however, is dragging its feet on this still unclear mechanism, believing that it could aggravate supply difficulties. It involves “significant risks”, the Bruegel Institute recently estimated, judging that it “could increase the demand for gas while undermining Europe’s ability to attract the deliveries it so badly needs”.
Another subject of confrontation: the reform of the European electricity market which penalizes consumers with high tariffs, indexed to those of gas.
Ms. von der Leyen proposed on Wednesday to discuss a temporary cap on the wholesale prices of gas used to produce electricity, a measure which would be a first step before the structural measures demanded in particular by Paris.
“The discussion must lead to a message of unity,” it was stressed at the Elysée. But the concrete results should wait a few weeks.
– OPEC snub –
Europeans also have to deal with the reluctance of their suppliers.
Twenty-three oil-producing countries, Saudi Arabia in the lead, announced Wednesday a drastic reduction in their production to support prices, a boon for Moscow and a snub to Westerners.
The case highlights the difficulty buyers have in imposing their prices on suppliers, even if they are “friends”. German Economy Minister Robert Habeck also deplored on Wednesday the “astronomical” prices demanded for their gas by countries such as Norway and the United States.
The EU, which has decided to stop its purchases of Russian oil by sea from December 5, should also have the greatest difficulty in getting third countries to accept the cap on Russian oil prices decided with the G7 to sanction Moscow. .
Ms von der Leyen also proposes to develop joint gas purchases, but also to go beyond the 20 billion euros in European subsidies already adopted for infrastructure aimed at getting rid of Moscow.
It’s urgent. Since the invasion of Ukraine in February, wholesale gas and electricity prices have increased 15 times in the EU, according to Bruegel. European employers warned at the end of September of an “imminent” risk to the survival of thousands of companies.
So far, the EU27 have agreed to take part of the “superprofits” of energy producers in order to help consumers, as well as to reduce their consumption of electricity and gas together.
European leaders must also reaffirm their continued support for Ukraine on Friday.
French President Emmanuel Macron indicated Thursday evening that he could announce new deliveries of weapons, in particular Caesar guns.