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EU ministers debate how to tackle rising energy costs

EUROPEAN Union (EU) ministers met Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021 for emergency talks focusing on energy amid deep divergences between the 27 member countries on how to tackle a crunch that has seen consumers’ bills skyrocket this year.

The wave of price hikes is not set to abate before next spring, and ministers discussed a set of short-term measures that have been put forward by the European Commission to help consumers and businesses weather the shock.

The main reason behind the sharp spike is increased global demand for energy, and gas in particular.

According to EU officials, gas prices in Europe have increased by more than 170 percent since the start of the year.

Although most member states agree tax cuts, state aid and other measures put forward by the EU’s executive arm to help households and businesses are beneficial to bring immediate relief, they diverge on the long-term approach.

“We have received different messages from different member states,” said Kadri Simson, EU commissioner for energy. “I do hope to hear clear messages from ministers — what are their expectations? If we are talking about medium-term measures, this also means that we have to start acting right now, despite the fact that the results of those actions will be foreseen in years to come, not the next two weeks.”

A line has been drawn between the countries calling for a thorough and structural reform of the bloc’s energy market — among them France and Spain — and those who believe the crisis is only temporary and does not require radical market changes.

Nine EU countries, including heavyweight Germany, have joined forces to say they will not support an overhaul of the electricity market ahead of the ministers’ meeting. / AP

Luxembourg, Austria, Germany, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, Latvia and the Netherlands said transparent and competitive markets are what guarantee better prices for users. They called for the deployment of renewable energy sources and “further interconnection.” (AP)


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