The European Commission has been under pressure, especially from southern Member States, to come up with ideas that could help ease the pain for consumers as energy prices skyrocket across Europe.
The Commission seems to have listened carefully to Prime Minister Mark Rutte. Last week, he argued in favor of letting member states look for solutions themselves before thinking about a European approach.
The Commission’s ideas therefore do not go much further than tips on what countries can do at their own expense.
Vouchers, don’t close
Examples include: support poor people by paying part of the energy bill or through energy vouchers. Or: make payment deferral possible if this is not already the case.
Make sure people are not cut off from gas and electricity this winter is idea number three.
Tip four: reduce the energy tax. It was recently decided to increase this in the Netherlands, but due to the sharply increased prices, it is now being considered to temporarily reduce it.
The last tip that can be directly benefited from: provide support to companies in need, but within the existing European state aid rules. Those rules have been in existence for many years and will not be changed for this purpose.
Longer term: buying together?
In order to prevent the same kind of misery in the future, the European Commission is speculating on measures that are more far-reaching, although still extremely cautious.
The Spaniards in particular were very keen to see a plan for joint gas purchasing. The Commission therefore lists ‘examining the potential benefits of joint gas procurement on a voluntary basis’ as one of the options.
The European Commission’s idea will be discussed by government leaders at the European Summit on 21 and 22 October. A few days later, the energy ministers of the EU countries are also discussing what to do.