The European Union should impose a radical plan to reduce the cost of energy by capping the price paid for gas imported from anywhere else in the world, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said in an interview with POLITICO .
De Croo’s proposal goes well beyond the plan outlined by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who suggested a bloc-wide cap only on gas imported from Russia.
His speech exposed divisions within the EU over how to respond to the growing economic crisis, fueled by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. EU leaders say Russia has weaponized its energy resources by cutting off gas supplied to the bloc in retaliation for sanctions imposed on Moscow by Brussels in response to the war.
The result has been a spike in energy prices, which has driven already high inflation and threatens a social and economic emergency for many countries in the region.
Speaking to POLITICO on Thursday, De Croo urgently called for a “broad” price cap on all types of gas, including from Russia.
For the Flemish liberal, the “key measure” is to cap the price of gas. “And that must [include] all types of gas,” he said. The Prime Minister urged swift action on far-reaching measures, warning that acting initially with only a “first step” would be a “big mistake”.
According to De Croo’s proposal, the cap on all gas imports should be implemented in a “dynamic” way to ensure that there was always a reason for traders to sell gas in Europe rather than, for example, in Asian markets.
Asian prices are currently about half of those in Europe, De Croo said. If Europe sets the price cap at 5% higher than Asia, he explained, “every trader in the world will continue to sell in Europe, because you always get a more attractive price than in Asia “.
Earlier on Thursday, Belgian Energy Minister Tinne Van der Straeten went even further and said Belgium would not support the Commission’s plan to impose a price cap specifically on imports of Russian gas. .
“A cap on Russian gas only is a purely political goal,” the green politician told reporters. “I don’t see the added value in that. We will not accept this.
De Croo has been a strong proponent of gas price caps. Since March, he has been lobbying European leaders to convince them to back his plan to cap soaring energy costs.
As momentum builds in some capitals for a global cap on gas import costs, countries like France have expressed concern over the idea, fearing a supply shortage as sales head for Asia.
Germany, too, said it was “skeptical” about the idea of a cap on Russian gas imports, to which De Croo replied: “I have the feeling that there is a lot more open to this idea. Because I think everyone understands that your own budget pockets, in any country, will never be deep enough to deal with this.”
Other countries such as Poland and Greece also support the idea of capping gas prices from all sources.
Barbara Moens contributed reporting.
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