EU at odds over gas price cap as 12 countries criticise latest proposal
A dozen countries including Belgium, Italy, Poland and Slovenia have made a push to "significantly" lower a planned European Union cap on gas prices, as the bloc struggles to strike a deal on the measure.
Gas prices in Europe have soared this year after Russia slashed gas deliveries following its invasion of Ukraine, pushing up fuel costs and stoking inflation.
EU countries held emergency negotiations on Saturday as they attempt to line up a deal to cap prices at a 13 December meeting of their energy ministers, but states remain split over the plan.
An official from one EU member states said countries were "narrowing down the differences" in their positions, but others said little progress had been made on Saturday. Diplomats will hold more negotiations on Monday.
Twelve of the EU's 27 member states have circulated a paper demanding that the price cap be "significantly" lower than the latest compromise being negotiated by countries.
"The text has not gone far enough towards what we could consider a satisfactory compromise," they said.
The paper, seen by Reuters, was put forward by Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia.
EU countries have wrangled for months over whether to cap gas prices, but have so far failed to bridge the gap between their divergent views.
Some diplomats are sceptical a deal will be reached next week, and point out that countries unhappy with the latest proposal have enough support to block it from being approved.
While pro-cap countries say the measure would shield their economies from high energy costs, Germany - Europe's biggest economy and gas market - and the Netherlands have opposed it.
They warn it could disrupt the normal functioning of energy markets, and deter gas producers from sending much-needed fuel to Europe.
The latest draft proposal being considered by countries would see the cap triggered if prices exceeded 220 euros (USD 231.66) per megawatt hour for five days on the front-month contract in the Dutch Title Transfer Facility (TTF) gas hub, and were also 35 euros higher than a reference price for liquefied natural gas (LNG) based on existing LNG price assessments.
That proposed cap is below the 275 eur/MWh limit proposed by the European Commission, but the 12 countries said it was still not low enough.