The EU is preparing support measures for the energy sector

Meeting at a summit in Brussels, the Twenty-Seven asked the European Commission on Thursday to prepare measures by the end of January to support EU industry threatened by the energy crisis and the race for subsidies. Americans.

The Heads of State and Government of the EU have “given a mandate to the Commission to come at the end of January with proposals (…) to support the competitiveness of European companies”, announced Charles Michel, the President of the Council, an institution which represents the Member States.

The survival of the sector threatened

The Twenty-Seven are trying to find a common response to the serious concerns of industrial circles, worried about the risk of a dropout vis-à-vis Asia and the United States while the European economic model was based in particular on cheap energy provided by Russia. War and sanctions have permanently destroyed this competitive advantage. Moscow has reduced its pipeline gas deliveries to the EU by 80% since the start of its military offensive in February.

Although the European supply is assured for this winter, thanks in particular to imports of liquefied natural gas purchased from other suppliers, its cost has exploded, just like that of oil and electricity, to the point of threatening the survival of sectors whole in the chemical or steel industry.

The pressure is increased by the American plan adopted this summer by Washington which provides for 370 billion dollars of investments in favor of the fight against climate change. Behind the laudable environmental objective, it takes on a protectionist character, with exceptional aid reserved for firms established across the Atlantic, likely to further undermine European competitiveness. On this file, technical discussions are underway between Brussels and Washington, two weeks after French President Emmanuel Macron demanded concessions from American President Joe Biden during a trip to the United States.

Dialogue with Washington

“We want to dialogue to plead for exemptions in favor of European companies,” said Charles Michel on Thursday. Without waiting for a possible change from Washington, the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen detailed her work plan on Thursday to set up her own European plan. “We need to adapt our state aid rules to make them simpler, faster,” she said.

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The President also pleaded for increased funding to accelerate the production of low-carbon energy and sobriety, in order to free ourselves from imports of Russian hydrocarbons. She also defends the idea of ​​a European “sovereignty fund” to develop a common industrial policy and invest more in research and innovation projects on a continental scale: hydrogen, semiconductors, quantum computing, intelligence artificial… “The American macroeconomic effort is around 2 points of GDP. We need to make a comparable effort,” demanded Emmanuel Macron.

Avoid the solo rider

Europeans must strive to remain united in the face of the economic crisis which is befalling them. After the historic drop in GDP caused by the Covid pandemic in 2020, soaring energy prices will push the EU economy back into recession this winter. This is to ensure that the various member countries do not embark on a race for subsidies which would inevitably be to the detriment of the less wealthy countries. The announcement of a German plan to 200 billion euros was controversial this fall.

“We are going to have to be very mobilized to avoid the temptation of the fragmentation of the internal market, not all States have the same capacities”, warned Charles Michel. On all these economic issues, the Twenty-Seven have agreed to meet at an extraordinary summit on 9 and 10 February next in Brussels. They should then be able to “provide very strong guidelines inspired by the work of the Commission”, promised the President of the Council. “The coming weeks will be decisive. They will have an impact for years to come on the EU’s ability to remain a dominant political and economic force internationally,” he warned.

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