How is the energy crisis affecting Europe?
In her State of the Union address today, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen presented proposals for alleviating the consequences of rising electricity prices. They include making energy companies share their excess profits and setting compulsory electricity-saving targets for member states. Commentators discuss whether these demands make sense.
Member states must act together
Von der Leyen would do well to force all the countries of the EU to save electricity, writes Renato Brunetta, minister for public administration in the outgoing Draghi government, in Corriere della Sera:
“Winter is approaching, time is running out and egoism is growing. We must avoid the 'prisoner's dilemma' that characterised the first weeks of the pandemic in 2020, when panic prevailed against rational decisions and hindered joint solutions. A change of pace is needed. Urgent measures aimed at reducing energy consumption and offering more support to families and businesses must be combined with an investment plan based on the 'Next Generation EU' model and the 'Repower EU' plan for financing energy autonomy with new pipelines and regasification plants.”
Don't go overboard with the welfare state
The Czech Republic is heading in the wrong direction by capping electricity and gas prices, Hospodářské noviny complains:
“Under the influence of the populists, we've grown accustomed to the idea that the state should solve all problems. ... No one asks anymore what they can do for their country, everyone only asks what their country can do for them. The welfare state has been redefined without our noticing. It no longer aims to protect the weakest from dropping into poverty but is expected to provide for the well-being of all. In this sense, absolutely everyone is a welfare case. ... This should serve as a warning, because a society with such a mentality and a state with such a policy are not sustainable.”
Jobs in jeopardy
The energy crisis will hit Europe's economy hard, Magyar Nemzet fears:
“The fact that some 30 public swimming pools in France have been closed is bearable. More alarming is the latest warning signal from the Federation of German Industries, which has made it clear that the rise in energy prices poses a fundamental threat to German industry. ... If the EU's strongest economic engine falters, the consequences will be felt in other member states. Quite apart from the fact that not only German companies will have to pay astronomical sums for energy. ... This opens the way for job cuts.”
A new two-speed Europe
Calls from the new EU member states for more political engagement on the world stage are suddenly gaining momentum, IQ notes:
“For some years now there has been calls for the EU to engage more actively in geopolitics rather than just rely on soft power and never do more than express 'serious concerns'. The reaction on the part of the societies and politicians of Eastern, Central and Northern European countries to the war in Ukraine (from supporting Kyiv to strengthening its defence capacities) shows that these EU countries form the core of geopolitical Europe. And the 'periphery' now comprises Western Europe including Germany and France. This is the new two-speed Europe.”