MADRID — Leaders and representatives of nine Mediterranean and southern European countries called on the European Union on Friday to come up with a more flexible mechanism to cap gas prices than the recently proposed ceiling of 220 euros ($232) per megawatt hour.
Call at the EU-Med summit9 v Spain further highlighted the divisions within the EU over the proposed cap. The bloc initially proposed a cap of €275 last month, but that was met with considerable opposition. Several EU member states do not want a price cap at all.
Spain’s Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said EU-Med leaders agreed to work together to reach a “gas price ceiling that is more dynamic and efficient” at a December 13 meeting of EU energy ministers.
When the first €275 figure was proposed, Spain and others said it was so high that it was highly unlikely the price would reach that figure, so the cap mechanism would never need to be activated.
Spain and other countries want a much lower cap that is liquid, linked to a market index and can be used whenever needed. They argue that this, in turn, would help countries and consumers in a more realistic way.
The energy crisis, triggered this year by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, dominated the summit. The leaders reiterated that the EU must build on European energy sovereignty and achieve independence from Russian fossil fuels.
French President Emmanuel Macron said Friday’s talks had created “a real convergence towards security of (energy) supply and lower gas prices.” He said the leaders share “collective support for bundled purchases” of gas and, in particular, are working to jointly conclude medium- and long-term contracts for the next three to five years to lower prices.
Macron said France he hopes that an agreement can be reached at a meeting of EU energy ministers on Tuesday on “a package of technical measures to lower prices … and limit speculation.”
The leaders or representatives of Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Greece, Malta, Cyprus, Slovenia and Croatia gathered at the EU-Med meeting in the eastern city of Alicante. It was also attended by the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and the President of the EU Council, Charles Michel.
The meetings of the EU-Med group started in 2014 and are aimed at building consensus among the participating countries on the main issues affecting the 27-member EU.
In addition to the cap on natural gas prices proposed by the EU, the group discussed strengthening relations with countries across the Mediterranean Sea, the fight against climate change in the region and migration.
Maltese Prime Minister Robert Abela said addressing migration by working with countries of origin and transit and cracking down on people-trafficking mafias was a priority.
The Mediterranean island nation is a common port of call for rescue ships that have rescued migrants trying to reach European countries such as Italy, Spain and Malta by sea from North Africa.
The day began with a summit between Spain, France and Portugal, where they finally reached an agreement on the construction of a large undersea pipeline to transport hydrogen from the Iberian Peninsula to France and Europe by 2030. The purpose of the pipeline is to make the EU more energy independent. .
Sánchez and Italy’s far-right Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni were due to have their first bilateral summit meeting, but Meloni had to cancel because she came down with the flu, her office said on Friday. Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani attended instead.
EU-Med9 agreed to hold its next meeting in Malta in 2023.
Associated Press writers Ciarán Giles and Raquel Redondo in Madrid and Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to this report.