Reducing gas prices dominating European summit
Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said Europe will develop a coordinated approach to the energy crisis, but it will take time.
Mr Martin has joined other EU leaders at a summit in Prague, which will be dominated by discussions on how to reduce the price of gas after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent energy crisis.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will outline detailed proposals on potential price caps and the need to negotiate long term contracts with non-Russian gas suppliers.
The Taoiseach said the EU was trying to replicate the unity that prevailed during the Covid pandemic by coordinating a response to the energy crisis, but that “lots of work needed to be done” still before an agreement emerges.
Arriving at the second day of the gathering of EU leaders, the Taoiseach said: “It’s not simple, different member states come with different positions. We all want to arrive at the same outcome, to try and limit the exponential growth of prices but also to make sure we have security of supply.”
He downplayed divisions over Germany’s decision to spend €200 billion on subsidising businesses and consumers.
“Many member states have taken measures to try and protect their businesses, to protect jobs, and to alleviate pressures on households. We have taken measures as well in Ireland.”
However, he added: “There should be a more cooperative and collective approach and every member state, including Germany, is on for that. It’s the working out of that, that will be the issue.
“Practical workable solutions have to be developed rather than a political wish list. Politicians may wish for a magical answer for this. There isn’t. It’s a wartime situation which has an impact on everything.”
Mr Martin said the European Commission was expected to present for the next meeting of EU leaders on 20-21 October a broader package of short-term measures to lower prices and longer-term steps to redesign the gas market.
While EU leaders will today discuss a range of proposals, including a cap on the price of gas used to generate electricity, the Taoiseach said: “We haven’t made decisions on domestic price caps. We’ve had concerns about sending blank cheques to energy companies. But at an EU level there is talk about a redesign of the market because the market is not functioning as a normal gas market.”
He said the benefit of the recent agreement on windfall taxes on non-carbon based energy producers would be felt in Ireland, “but the application in terms of our domestic environment has to be worked out”.
Asked if he was encouraged by the reception of Liz Truss at yesterday’s inaugural European Political Community meeting in Prague, the Taoiseach said: “The UK government is determined to make sure there’s a constructive relationship with the EU and with key member states, not least because of the very big geopolitical issues facing us: the war in Ukraine, the wider security situation and also the economic situation that flows from that war and the impact that energy prices have on economies.
“It’s positive to see that and that will continue.”
Last night, EU and other European leaders concluded the inaugural gathering of the so-called European Political Community, a new platform to bring together 44 continental leaders to discuss the challenges of the age.
Observers have regarded it as a relative success, with the most notable moment being an apparently warm bilateral between French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Liz Truss.
Both committed to cooperating more closely on nuclear energy and combatting irregular migration across the English Channel.