EU countries at odds over how to tackle energy crisis

BRUSSELS, Oct 18 (Reuters) – Croatia and Lithuania want a wholesale tank cap, Slovenia favors a cap for LPG only, while Finland and Slovakia disagree on direct subsidies, the countries said on Tuesday as the European Union is dealing with an energy crisis.

Germany – the bloc’s largest economy and the main opponent of capping gas prices – said buying together, reducing consumption and increasing supply was the way forward instead.

Officials from those countries offered their views on their arrival for talks between EU affairs ministers in Luxembourg to prepare the ground for a summit of their national leaders on Thursday and Friday, with the energy crisis dominating the agenda.

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Ahead of the summit, the EU executive, the European Commission, will separately propose further measures to curb high energy prices on Tuesday. However, they would not include an immediate cap on gas prices, something that has divided the bloc.

Croatian and Lithuanian ministers backed a wholesale gas price cap, with Croatia also highlighting the need for joint gas purchases among the 27 EU member states. However, Slovenia only opted for a price cap for LPG.

“Slovenia will work to introduce the so-called dynamic price cap for LPG as soon as possible, if possible – now,” said the country’s State Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Marko Stucin.

His Slovak colleague Andrej Stancik called for longer-term market reform to decouple the price of electricity generated from gas from electricity generated from other resources, and called for direct EU subsidies for consumers and businesses.

“We need very quick and effective solutions to subsidize prices for citizens and businesses, including from unused cohesion funds,” he told journalists upon his arrival in Luxembourg.

Tytti Tuppurainen, EU affairs minister of Finland – a country generally skeptical about market interventions – said Helsinki is now ready for a “temporary” gas price cap. But she was against consumer handouts.

“Rather than subsidizing individual households, we should rather encourage investments in green energy,” she said, adding that this would also limit Europe’s dependence on energy suppliers like Russia.

German EU Minister Anna Lührmann stressed the need for joint gas purchases, as well as reducing consumption and diversifying the supply structure by adding more renewable sources and different suppliers.

“It is important that national and European measures go hand in hand,” said Lührmann, without naming an upper limit.

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Additional reporting by Philip Blenkinsop, writing by Gabriela Baczynska, editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Susan Fenton

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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