European Union leaders have failed to reach an agreement on a plan to help protect their citizens from surging energy prices, despite hours of wrangling at a summit in Brussels.
The group’s leaders emerged from their second summit in as many weeks at about 2am in Brussels (00:00 GMT) with a “roadmap” to agreeing on a set of measures to lower energy bills, which have soared as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
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While the announcement of the summit text made a public show of unity among the 27 member states, the absence of any decision on capping gas prices indicated negotiations would remain difficult.
“We do now have a very good and solid roadmap to keep on working on the topic of energy prices,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told reporters in the early hours of Friday morning.
No timeframe was given on when a decision on price caps would be made, with EU energy ministers due to meet in Luxembourg on Tuesday for further discussions.
The published text calls on the European Commission and EU countries to find ways to shield consumers from the high prices “while preserving Europe’s global competitiveness… and the integrity of the Single Market”.
“There is a strong and unanimously shared determination to act together, as Europeans, to achieve three goals: lowering prices, ensuring security of supply and continuing to work to reduce demand,” said meeting host Charles Michel, the EU Council president.
The EU has been squabbling for months over which joint initiatives to adopt in negotiations made more challenging by the varying energy mixes in each country.
At least 15 EU states want a cap on gas prices amid growing public anger over the cost of living in countries including France and Belgium.
But Germany, the EU’s biggest economy, has resisted the call, arguing a cap risked freezing Europe out of the gas market and reducing incentives for energy saving.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz said the meeting outcome was a “good signal of solidarity” but there was frustration among other leaders.
Before the war, the EU got 40 percent of its gas from Russia, but in July it agreed to cut Russian gas usage by 15 percent. The move prompted Moscow to cut supplies, further contributing to the rise in prices. European gas prices reached a record high of more than 343 euros ($335) per megawatt-hour in late August.
“We are asked to show solidarity in sharing energy, but there is no solidarity on our calls for containing prices,” Italy’s outgoing Prime Minister Mario Draghi told his peers, an EU official familiar with the closed-door discussions told the Reuters news agency.
Prime Minister Alexander de Croo of Belgium, which exports gas to neighbouring Germany, shared similar sentiments.
“Solidarity should not just be on supply — it should also be on prices,” he told the gathering, according to the official.
French President Emmanuel Macron, who had gone into the summit saying Germany was isolating itself, expressed satisfaction with the result.
“The next two or three weeks will allow the commission to come up with these mechanisms” to be implemented.
He said it sent a “very clear signal to the markets of our determination and our unity”.