Orban mocks EU chiefs' gas price cap plan as Hungary demands competition in market

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Viktor Orban has rubbished the EU’s energy price cap plans after 27 countries agreed to fill storages and claw back revenues from energy firms to spend on helping consumers with crippling bills. But Germany, the biggest EU economy, leads a small camp refusing calls from 15 countries to cap gas prices, saying it would risk suppliers freezing Europe out, and reduce incentives for energy saving.

“We are asked to show solidarity in sharing energy but there is no solidarity on our calls for containing prices,” Italy’s prime minister, Mario Draghi, told his peers, according to an EU official familiar with the closed-door discussions.

Prime Minister Alexander de Croo of Belgium, which exports gas to neighbouring Germany, shared the frustration.

“Solidarity should not just be on supply – it should also be on prices,” he told the gathering, according to the official.

Spain and Portugal have already capped the price of gas used to produce power domestically, and France is keen to expand the scheme EU-wide.

Separately on Thursday, the two also agreed with France to build a sea-based pipeline between Barcelona and Marseille.

But backing Germany’s position, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban tweeted from the summit on Thursday: “The EU Commission’s proposal on the gas price cap is like going to a bar and telling the bartender you want to pay half price for your beer.

“Not going to happen. Customers can’t reduce energy prices. Only diversification and competition can.”

The Hungarian leader then said on Friday that an agreement had been reached at the EU summit in Brussels that any future EU gas price cap will not apply to long-term gas supply deals like the 15-year deal that Hungary has with Russia’s Gazprom.

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In their summit conclusions, EU leaders asked their energy ministers and the EU Commission to “submit concrete decisions” on a “temporary dynamic price corridor on natural gas transactions” that would limit price spikes, and a price cap on gas used to generate electricity.

This should include a “cost and benefit analysis” of capping gas prices for the power sector, the conclusions said, reflecting some countries’ concerns that it could boost gas use or divert electricity exports to non-EU countries like Britain that do not have the cap.

The leaders did not give a timeframe for when decisions should be made on the price caps. EU energy ministers will discuss the measures on Tuesday.



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