Our recipe: unity, solidarity, flexibility
On 20 July the European Commission issued an urgent plan to reduce gas demand in the EU Member States, in line with recent recommendations by the International Energy Agency, aimed at strengthening the EU's response to the current energy crisis. Ahead of the extraordinary Energy Council on 26 July, the EESC calls for taking extraordinary measures to meet the common energy crises by showing unity, solidarity and flexibility.
The EESC commends the EU's constant efforts to issue legislative proposals that provide swift responses to the impacts of rising gas prices and expected supply cuts due to the consequences of the war in Ukraine. The current geopolitical situation has caused a common energy crisis for which a joint European solution is required.
Achieving independence from Russian gas and building up our strategic autonomy in energy are now absolute priorities, and the RePowerEU plan might not be ambitious enough.
We welcome the proposed measures in the Save Gas for a Safe Winter plan as an important step towards starting the discussion and towards swiftly finding a solution that ensures that our citizens and businesses come out ahead of this energy crisis. Some of these measures, like the joint procurement scheme, have already been launched. We acknowledge that Member State interventions, whether fiscal or regulatory, will be necessary. This will not be achieved without unity with countries outside of the EU, solidarity within the EU, and flexibility towards each country's needs. As previous and recent crises have proven time and again, there is no other recipe for progress.
Nevertheless, as representatives of organised civil society, we are convinced that the Save Gas for a Safe Winter plan must be made compatible with affordable prices for end consumers – be they individuals, households, MSMEs or essential industries – without hampering the internal market. We are concerned by the impact of rising energy prices, particularly on the most vulnerable groups. Young people, people with disabilities, poor workers, migrants and refugees are all population groups that are quickly becoming vulnerable in the current crisis. And now high prices are also rapidly reaching middle-income families, which means that tackling energy poverty must be made an absolute priority among EU policies. Security of energy supply cannot be presented as incompatible with social justice, economic competitiveness or environmental sustainability.
The proposed gas demand reduction in each Member State, as well as the concept of a Union Alert on gas supply, are extraordinary measures that will require a strong effort towards consensus. A failure in tackling this crisis now would have far-reaching consequences for the EU's goals, values and prosperity. The EESC will keep supporting these goals.
Ms Christa Schweng, President of the European Economic and Social Committee,
Ms Baiba Miltoviča, President of the EESC's Section for Transport, Energy, Infrastructure and the Information Society