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EU wants unity on energy price controls

The European Union has intensified efforts to combat soaring energy costs that could dump millions into cold and poverty over winter as Russia’s war in Ukraine drives up prices.

The energy ministers of the 27 member nations held an emergency meeting in Brussels on Friday, hoping to overcome differing views on proposals to ensure gas and electricity are affordable.

They range from windfall taxes on some companies to a price cap on buying Russian gas.

Officials said it was unlikely the ministers would find full agreement on Friday, with the implementation of a price cap on Russian gas among the outstanding issues.

They might agree to provide liquidity support to energy companies to deal with the extraordinary situation and measures on how to impose electricity reductions similar to those already agreed on gas.

“There is no time to wait and we have to be swift and united,” said Jozelf Sikela, industry minister of the Czech Republic, which chaired the meeting.

Despite the urgency, the ministers will only give guidelines to the executive Commission, which will present a firm proposal for member states next week.

Member states will then reassess again, in the hope a firm decision can be made by early next month.

The European Commission has called for a price cap on Russian natural gas and is seeking a “solidarity contribution” from European oil and gas companies that have made extraordinary profits from the rise in energy costs.

The energy crisis is not only threatening households but also industry, with fears energy-intensive factories could be forced to close.

EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said Russia was “blackmailing” the EU with its threat to turn off gas to the bloc.

Moscow has already cut gas supplies partially or entirely to 13 EU countries.

Russian pipeline gas accounted for 40 per cent of all imported gas into Europe before President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine in February. Now it accounts for nine per cent.

The Commission believes the EU is prepared for winter, with joint gas storage levels at 82 per cent; well ahead of the 80 per cent target set for the end of October.

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