Gas Price Caps Have Become the EU’s Latest Hot-Button Issue

Gas Price Caps Have Become the EU’s Latest Hot-Button Issue
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen awaits the group photo for the European Political Community summit, Prague, Czech Republic, Oct 6, 2022 (AP photo by Alastair Grant).

PRAGUE—Europe’s eyes are fixed on Prague today for the inaugural summit of the European Political Community. The pet project of French President Emmanuel Macron will assemble all of continental Europe’s leaders—with the notable exceptions of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Belarussian counterpart, Alexander Lukashenko—as a forum meant to fill the institutional gap between the European Union and the rest of Europe.

The summit is being held in Prague because it’s been tacked onto an informal meeting of EU leaders scheduled for tomorrow and chaired by Czech Republic, which currently holds the six-month rotating presidency of the EU Council. Despite the anticipation accompanying the leadup to today’s gathering, it is intended only to set out the broad outlines of what the new organization intends to accomplish. Tomorrow’s European Council meeting is expected to deliver more tangible outcomes—as well as the usual North-South divide on contentious issues like Europe’s ongoing energy crisis.

In a speech delivered yesterday in Strasbourg, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen laid out a set of energy proposals for EU leaders to consider at tomorrow’s summit. But there was one glaring omission from her speech and the items on tomorrow’s agenda: namely, the wholesale gas price cap requested by 15 of the union's members. Instead, von der Leyen stuck with the commission’s existing policy suggestions, including a “price corridor” for gas imports into the bloc, a temporary price cap on gas used to produce electricity for domestic and industrial use, collective gas procurement within the EU and an increase in funds allocated to the union’s RePowerEU scheme that is intended to increase EU energy security. EU leaders will discuss all of these measures, as well as other more controversial proposals, like capping the wholesale price of all gas imports and taking out more collective EU debt to fund a European energy crisis recovery fund.

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