Norway and the EU have agreed to “jointly develop tools” aimed at bringing down Europe’s high gas prices, while Brussels rushes to find both effective and politically acceptable measures to deal with a looming energy crisis this winter .
Oslo said it will work with Brussels to “stabilize energy markets and limit the impact of market manipulation and price volatility,” a move that could spur efforts to lessen disagreements in the EU, like those caused by Russia’s massive invasion caused rising prices can be coped with Ukraine.
Norway, which replaced Russia as the EU’s largest gas supplier after the invasion, said in a joint statement it would continue to ramp up production and take steps “to sensibly reduce excessively high prices in the short and long term”. Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
Oslo’s pledge came as a meeting of 44 leaders in Prague on Thursday, aimed at showing a united front against Russia’s war, was overshadowed by disagreements within the EU over whether to introduce a wholesale gas price cap.
This initiative is opposed by countries like Germany and the Netherlands, who fear it could lead to lower supplies as growers fetch higher prices elsewhere. Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on his arrival at the Prague summit: “It cannot be that the EU’s energy policy is dictated by Germany”.
Støre used his speech before the summit to tell his fellow leaders that Oslo is “flexible” to boost exports and that it is “ready to consider” EU proposals to stabilize prices, according to two people who were informed of his statements.
Proposed by Paris to coordinate views from Lisbon to Ankara, the European Political Community grouping saw British Prime Minister Liz Truss and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan meet the 27 EU leaders and those from 15 other countries.
Ahead of the meeting, Truss said it was a chance to “find common cause with our European friends and allies” as they seek to defeat President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine. Russia and its ally Belarus are the only two continental powers not invited to the forum, which will discuss other issues such as European defence.
Truss’ attendance was taken by many EU officials as a sign London may be open to compromises on trade deals that have strained post-Brexit relations.
Charles Michel, President of the European Council, described the event as “extremely important”. The meeting will “try to renew coordination and cooperation to achieve more stability, more security and more peace,” he said.
Arriving at Prague Castle, French President Emmanuel Macron said the summit sent a “message of unity” but criticized the proposed gas pipeline between Spain and France, which Germany wants to build to access the Iberian gas market.
Other leaders have expressed anger at Germany’s €200 billion energy aid package, a plan that poorer nations cannot deliver. But Chancellor Olaf Scholz stuck by the measures, saying on the way into the meeting that other countries are also adopting measures to offer relief to citizens struggling with energy bills.
While British officials were desperate to avoid Brexit, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told reporters on Thursday: “The UK-EU relationship will be on the agenda.”
The UK and EU have agreed to resume technical talks on trade deals in Northern Ireland, which could resolve the dispute. Failure to honor the deal signed by London has prompted legal action in Brussels.
But the UK’s commitment to the EPC could wane if there are no concrete achievements, British officials have said.
A Truss ally said: “The prime minister remains skeptical for a number of reasons – it must not be just a forum for discussion, it must not flout NATO and the G7, and it must have strong participation from non-EU countries. It has to show that it can deliver.
“But given the situation in Ukraine and the energy crisis, it is right that we take part. We played a huge role in setting the agenda on energy and migration and achieved what we wanted to make both prominent.”
Above all, Truss demands that the EU and Norway continue to supply electricity to Great Britain.
Truss has also said she wants to take joint action with France and the Netherlands to stop criminal gangs helping migrants cross the English Channel. She was supposed to meet Macron and Rutte on the edge of the summit.
EU leaders remain on Friday for an informal European Council meeting that is likely to focus on the energy crisis.
Additional reporting from George Parker in London and Valentina Pop in Prague
https://www.ft.com/content/5e386cc3-463d-4417-afdf-7c1009bc948b The EU and Norway agree on “joint instruments” to deal with the gas crisis in Europe