Energy costs: should each EU country act on its own?

Wholesale prices for natural gas have quadrupled within a year, and a meeting of EU energy ministers on Tuesday failed to produce a joint action plan to counter this inflationary trend. While Spain, Greece and others are demanding intervention in the markets, Germany, the Netherlands and the Baltic States want to wait and see first. Some commentators see the single market and EU energy policies as the core of the problem.

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Efimerida ton Syntakton (GR) /

Wind turbines not enough

The Greek government is to blame for the fact that prices in the country are rising so sharply, grumbles Efimerida ton Syntakton:

“Its neoliberal obsession and willingness to adapt directly to the prevailing logic of the EU have led it to unceremoniously abandon coal-based energy production without having taken measures to ensure a genuine and safe transition to renewable energy sources - apart from putting up wind turbines all over the country and privatising the state electricity company in a rush.”

Les Echos (FR) /

French people deprived of their earnings

Despite its nuclear industry and extensive hydrogen production, France cannot act independently of the European market, economist Christian Stoffaës complains in Les Echos:

“Gas occupies a prominent position in the European market. According to the laws of the market, the price in the EU revolves around the marginal costs of the means of production - in this case gas-fired power plants. EU climate policy also bears responsibility for the price hikes, with the spectacular expansion of renewable energies driven by subsidies and the brutal rise in the price of CO2 certificates. The French can justifiably ask themselves why Europe is depriving them of the benefits of the gigantic investments they agreed to in order to secure their country's energy autonomy.”

hvg (HU) /

A risky trend for Orbán

Despite the cap on energy prices in Hungary, the overall increase in prices could become dangerous for Viktor Orbán, says hvg:

“The current price explosion risks destroying the illusion of prosperity that the government is trying to create. The energy costs for private consumers established in the context of the [earlier] reduction in fixed costs are viewed as solid for now. However, the rising prices of petrol and many other products - some of which are becoming more expensive because of rising energy costs - affect everyone.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

EU needs to reduce gas dependence

For the Süddeutsche Zeitung short-term measures are sufficient:

“Because the markets are working, even if the result is not to the liking of consumers and politicians right now. There would be an enormous risk of the EU only making things worse. ... Governments should therefore be wary of blind actionism. They should fight the cause of the crisis instead: the EU is still far too dependent on gas imports, and this gas is now very expensive. The price will go down again, but the EU must use the shock as an opportunity to reduce its dependence - for example by investing more in renewable energies.” (DE) /

Still not expensive enough

For, people and households with low incomes must be helped not by artificially bringing down the price of fossil energy,

“but by providing these needy households with direct assistance so that they can pay their energy bills. Anything else would send the wrong signal. Anything that emits CO2 should not become cheaper; on the contrary, it must become more expensive. And if this forces more people, for example, not to use the car so often in their daily lives but to use the bicycle instead, then that is not a bad but a good thing. The high prices for fossil fuels send the right signal at the right time.”

El Mundo (ES) /

Demagogy has never worked

El Mundo sees the Spanish government's plans to lower prices unilaterally as pointless:

“The latest act of desperation is directed against the EU, whose pricing method [Prime Minister] Pedro Sánchez and [Minister for Ecological Transition] Teresa Ribera blame for the Spaniards' rising costs. Most of our EU partners see no need to reform the gas and electricity system, as this could compromise the green transition. Faced with this refusal, Sánchez has even threatened to undermine the single market and act independently, asking for permission to set the price of electricity on his own in order to make good on his demagogic promise. A presumption with little chance of success.”