Did Spain and Portugal disobey the European Union by freezing prices?

Among the main points of the new EcoSocPeople’s campaign for legislative elections: disobedience to the European Union. Candidates mention him for organic and local canteens, EDF re-nationalization… This time, while presenting this Left Union program, Jean-Luc Melenchon mentioned the electricity price freeze.

Spain and Portugal have just decided to freeze electricity prices. This is a tangible disobedience to EU regulations that prohibit such practices. “We understand that in the context, you were disobedient,” the EU said. I am sure that tomorrow she will understand that in context we cannot comply with certain rules.

For some, this is impossible: “Spain and Portugal did not block prices because that is impossible for the European Union.” Others say: “The European Union is not responsible for anything in electricity prices, this is a lie. »

20 minutes measures what it really is.

From fake

The electricity price freeze was mentioned in the presidential election campaign. Marine Le Pen estimated that in order to prevent electricity prices, it was necessary to leave the European Union. We interviewed Phuc Vinh Nguyen, a researcher in European and French energy politics within the Jacques Delors Institute’s “Energy Centre,” about this. The specialist explained that the European Union already sets electricity tariffs for its member states, but it is quite possible to make exceptions. “In order to set the price of electricity, validation by the European Commission is required. He explains that this is a temporary cover, for very exceptional cases. In this aspect, the commission is completely open. It is also possible to set the price of gas, which will have a clear impact on the price of electricity. In this case, certification by the European Council is required. »

Which is exactly the exception that was allowed for Spain and Portugal. And in mid-May, the two countries agreed by decree to limit the price of gas used to produce electricity. Because as Phuc Vinh Nguyen pointed out, “During peak consumption, gas meets demand, and therefore we need gas-fired power plants, which are expensive to operate. Thus, the wholesale price of electricity is currently dependent on the cost of gas.”

The “Iberian exception” convinced Brussels

So this has nothing to do with the disobedience of the European Union, since it was the latter who granted the derogation. The Spanish and Portuguese governments managed to get Brussels to recognize the “Iberian exception”. Discussions and negotiations continued for a month between the institution and the states. The two countries highlighted the lack of reciprocal links with the rest of the continent, across the Pyrenees, forcing them to function as an island of energy.

This is also what Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, indicated when she said that “their energy mix [est] It is mostly made up of renewable energies and has very few interconnections with the European market.”

According to the rules set with Brussels, Spain and Portugal will be able to exceptionally withdraw from the European energy market for at least twelve months. The goal is to cut the bill for households, small and medium-sized businesses and industries by 25-30%, which have seen their production costs rise since the summer of 2021. The gas price will be set at a maximum of €40 per megawatt-hour for the first six months, before the rate gradually increases to an average 50 euros per megawatt-hour throughout the year.

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