Finance ministers of France, Spain, Greece, Czech Republic and Romania issued a joint statement asking the European Union to develop a toolkit to “immediately react to dramatic price surges.” They called for an investigation into the gas market, said the bloc should coordinate purchases to “increase our bargaining power,” and urged an overhaul of power markets.
European governments are struggling to react to a dramatic spike in gas prices, which threatens to plunge citizens into energy poverty, spur inflation, and undermine the post-pandemic recovery. The surge in prices leaves governments hoping for mild weather, and spending increasing amounts of public money to ease the impact on consumers.
Energy price hikes are already feeding into bond markets — with the U.K. cost of borrowing rising on Tuesday as natural gas prices hit new records — and there’s growing concern that industry will face shutdowns if prices keep rising.
The crunch also poses a risk to European policy makers’ plans to push the bloc in the direction of cleaner energy, while countries are divided on one possible solution: bringing more gas from Russia.
The European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, is set to publish next week a set of measures that national governments can take to ease the impact of high prices. It will offer guidance on how to design emergency responses to ensure they are in line with EU law and don’t undermine the world-leading shift to greener energy.
The five governments called for:
- A common EU approach and a toolkit to respond
- An investigation to understand why current gas contracts have been insufficient
- A reform of the wholesale electricity market
- Energy independence; diversification
- A more predictable carbon price and less volatility