(Bloomberg) -- European Union leaders plan to discuss common gas purchases at a summit late next month as they seek to avoid competing against each other for alternative energy supplies in the effort to phase out purchases from Russia.
The bloc’s two-day summit starting May 30 is expected to cover a solidarity mechanism to support member states facing gas shortages, energy interconnections in the bloc, the security of energy supplies and possible changes to the EU’s electricity market, according to people familiar with the discussions.
The May summit, which was added earlier this year, comes after leaders agreed in March to move toward joint storage and purchase of gas to help it cut down the bloc’s over-dependence from Russia. Some European countries are calling for sanctions on Russian gas over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, but about 40% of the EU’s gas currently comes from Russia.
Even before the war in Ukraine, countries including France and Spain had been calling for shared purchase of gas to cushion the impact of energy price spikes, replicating the EU’s joint mechanism for vaccines during the Covid-19 pandemic. Russian president Vladimir Putin’s invasion, which added urgency to the bloc’s push toward energy independence, is helping to convince some member states who were skeptical about the proposal.
Some EU governments are already reaching out to third countries to sign new gas deals. Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi this week struck agreements for Algerian and Egyptian gas, and will travel to central and southern Africa later this month.
But the race to secure energy providers risks boosting fossil fuel prices even more if member states act in an uncoordinated manner, an EU official warned. The Italian deal sparked concern in the Spanish gas industry that it could affect their arrangements with Algeria.
Ahead of the summit, in the week of May 18, the European Commission aims to present its RePowerEU package, which addresses the rising energy costs and ways to cut down Europe’s dependence on Russia. The proposal will also assess how member states’ post-pandemic recovery funds could help to address the bloc’s energy structural gaps.
In parallel, the EU executive’s arm will put forward proposals on faster permit-granting procedures for renewables projects, energy-savings initiatives and the design of the electricity market.
France, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency, is considering convening an extra meeting of energy ministers to prepare for the summit after countries including Germany, Italy and the Netherlands requested it to scrutinize the commission’s package.
EU leaders are also expected to discuss the commission’s analysis on defense investment gaps and possible new sanctions to react to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.
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