State of the Union: What were the top stories in the EU this week?
A few days before this year ends “another mission impossible was accomplished” in the EU, as Czech Minister of Industry and Trade Jozef Síkela said on Monday.
EU energy ministers reached a deal to limit excessive gas prices, following months of debate over whether or not to implement a price cap on imports into Europe.
Under the agreement, gas prices on the EU’s main trading hub will be capped if they exceed €180 MWh for three consecutive working days, and, if they are higher than global gas prices by more than €35 MWh for the same three days.
But complete consensus could not be reached, with Austria and the Netherlands abstaining, while Hungary voting against the measure.
Countries like Germany were not convinced either, saying a price limit risked jeopardising security of supply by limiting the ability of companies to buy liquified natural gas on world markets
“I’m a little bit sceptical that capping the market correction mechanism is the right way, but now we have agreed on it and it is ok I would say because we have a lot of safeguards and mechanisms to monitor everything and opt out if some [kind of] harm threatens the supply of Europe,” Robert Habeck, the German Minister for Climate Action, told reporters on Monday.
A deal is a deal, but the devil is always in the details and the scheme is fudged together with so many restrictions that it may not even have much of an impact, especially for the pro-price cap countries — including Belgium, Italy, Spain and Greece — that have put the need to lower energy bills for citizens and businesses front and centre in their arguments for a price cap.
It’s because people across Europe are still struggling with high energy prices, but also food.
And as Christmas approaches it seems that people are more reluctant to spend than previous years.
According to Statistics Belgium, the price of food products in Belgium increased by almost 15%, for example.
For many, this is certainly felt in the wallet and can mean making sacrifices at the Christmas table.
“I think people are becoming aware that there’s a crisis ongoing and they are reigning in their expenses, so, people are buying less,” one shopper told Euronews.
“It’s not something too huge, but in the lump sums, you can feel it [the price increases]. A little bit here, a little bit there…and when you leave the supermarket and you see the bill, yes, you can feel it.”
Qatargate fallout continues
And as European citizens pay the price of high inflation and energy, the European Parliament – the only EU institution directly elected by the people – is being shaken by an unprecedented scandal – Qatargate.
This scandal has all the elements of a spy movie. Secret services, high level politicians, a lot of glamour and money.
The most high-profile MEP implicated in the case, Eva Kaili from Greece, was ordered on Thursday to remain in detention for another month, meaning Christmas and New Year will be spent in prison.
She is accused of corruption, money laundering and participation in a criminal organisation to promote the interests of foreign countries, such as Qatar, in the European Parliament.
One of her lawyers was adament in maintaining her innocence, however.
“I want to say to you that Mrs Eva Kaili is innocent and has never been corrupted. Never!” Michalis Dimitrakopoulos told Euronews.