However, EU leaders shunned sweeping action by adopting a moderate list of measures such as direct income support for vulnerable households, state aid for struggling companies and reductions in taxes and special levies.
All these measures must be targeted, tailored and temporary, an opinion shared by Germany and other Northern member states, who are reluctant of forceful intervention.
Most north European countries argue that the situation is the result of free market dynamics: countries recovering from the pandemic around the world are thirsty for energy to kick start their economic activity but the stronger demand hasn’t been met by stronger supplies, leading to a pronounced hike in natural gas prices. The surge is expected to last until April.
Energy crisis needs “European solution”
Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis said that price hikes in energy costs for consumers are a European problem, therefore it requires a European solution.
The Greek premier noted that “we requested that the European Commission evaluate the energy market the soonest possible, so as to suggest solutions against these sudden fluctuations in energy prices.”
Moreover, the Greek government has already proposed that natural gas storage be increased, and it has also put forth the idea for collective purchasing of natural gas, to increase the bargaining advantage against gas suppliers, he added.
President von der Leyen said leaders were open to exploring the creation of a strategic gas reserve for the bloc, the voluntary joint procurement of energy supplies and the decoupling of the electricity and natural gas prices, a cause championed by France.
Earlier in October Greece announced a series of measures that would offer households subsidies to cope with soaring energy prices. “In this unprecedented energy crisis, we will not leave anyone unprotected,” said Environment and Energy Minister Costas Skrekas at a joint press conference with Finance Minister Christos Staikouras.
Eastern Mediterranean could help EU energy demand, Greece says
Mitsotakis also noted that the Eastern Mediterranean basin may provide cheaper electricity in light of the recent electrical interconnection agreement between Greece and Egypt, Mitsotakis pointed out.
However, he said he did also point out to European partners that geopolitical developments also factor into price hikes, and that he stressed to all that the quickest renewable energy sources are practically strengthened into energy policies – the fastest energy security can be reached.
Regarding the migration crisis, Mitsotakis said he was satisfied of the fact that after Greece’s insistance, Turkey has received explicit insructions to keep up its 2016 agreement with the EU for the management of migration flows. He also mentioned that he called on the European Council and the European Commission to propose specific legal changes, measures and funding for a more efficient guarding of European borders.
Both Greece and Cyprus, he added, briefed the Council on the latest developments in the Eastern Mediterranean region.
“Turkey has to choose between two paths, one being of sincere collaboration and the other of provocation,” Mitsotakis underlined.