An extraordinary summit on energy. A summit that has the Commission’s proposal on the gas price cap finally on the table. Mario Draghi arrives at the European Council with a request destined to change the European agenda in the coming weeks. Time is running out, the Kremlin’s shadow over gas flows to Europe is getting darker and the rise in prices does not see an end on the horizon. Italy therefore decides to play everything out. By obtaining the first, unofficial openings. The Czech presidency, which will take office in July, is not against the summit in July but as long as there is also talk of inflation.
For Italy, however, this would be a subtlety given the close link between the issues. The mission of the President of the Council is to bring to Brussels, in the folds of a summit dedicated primarily to the enlargement of the Union, the sense of urgency that winds in Rome and in other European chancelleries on the energy dossier. A Mediterranean front is being created on the price cap proposal. Spaniard Pedro Sanchez arrived announcing that he would bring the “reform of the electricity market” and “a ceiling on gas prices” to the summit table. The head of the Greek government, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, went further.
“I will reaffirm, together with the Italian Prime Minister, the now urgent request for courageous initiatives at European level, such as the imposition of a cap on the wholesale price of gas”, explained Mitsotakis. Small detail: a few hours before the European summit, on Wednesday evening, the Greek premier was at Palazzo Chigi with Draghi.
The Italian request also collects the strong side of France. In a bilateral meeting organized in the offices of the Italian delegation, before the European Council, Draghi and Emmanuel Macron spoke, according to official sources, about the issues on the Council’s agenda. In fact, the Italian premier and the tenant of the Elysée have strengthened the axis on the request for a European intervention on energy.
The reference to the price cap, after a last night-time negotiation, was included in the conclusions of the Council which, we read, “in contrasting Russia’s use of gas as a weapon and recalling the conclusions of May 31, invites the Commission to continue its efforts to ensure affordable energy supplies “. But it is not enough for Italy.
Because at the summit at the end of May, the EU executive was invited to explore options for curbing energy prices, including a temporary price cap. And, in a month, no proposal has come out of Palazzo Berlaymont. Also for this reason Rome and other countries could ask for a further filing of the conclusions. By designing a less indeterminate timing for the Commission.
In the strategy of Palazzo Chigi, the gas price ceiling would be configured as a sanction with which to respond to Moscow which, for weeks now, has been using energy as a weapon. In this way, the implementation of the measure would also be procedurally faster, since it is not necessary to modify directives on the energy market currently in force. And in the front of the opposites a few small cracks begin to open.
“We are not opposed on principle” and “we evaluate the proposal” but it may not work, explained Dutchman Mark Rutte. From Germany, for now, a cold silence filters through. The fear, in Berlin and in the capital cities most dependent on Moscow gas, is that Vladimir Putin will turn off the taps permanently in retaliation. But those taps, is the reasoning made by the Italian government, are closing anyway. And in its crusade on energy, the government has the full support of the major parties. Enrico Letta, in Brussels for the S&D summit, raised the issue to Chancellor Olaf Scholz: “The price cap must be a goal”, underlined the secretary of the Democratic Party. But Scholz doesn’t rule alone. And his liberal allies will be a tough nut to crack.