The Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament insist it is imperative that energy ministers tackle the issue of manipulations with gas on the European internal market. Otherwise it is clear that other measures, like reducing electricity consumption, caps on energy commodities imported from third countries or allowing state guarantees, will have no tangible effect and will not be able to significantly reduce electricity bills for households and businesses. This call from the S&Ds comes on the eve of the extraordinary Council meeting, bringing together ministers from all the member states to discuss the crucial issue of skyrocketing energy prices and possible measures to solve the problem.
Iratxe García Pérez MEP, president of the S&D Group, said:
“Unless we stop speculation on the gas market, other measures won’t work. Changing the rules for our electricity market is not enough because it doesn’t address the root cause of many of our problems today. Our Group is worried we are not hearing enough about this and instead all the focus is on our relations and negotiations with third countries. It is due to these market speculations within the EU that we all face the risk of energy shortages and excessive and unreasonable bills to pay for households and industry.
“We have to suspend transactions on the spot market where we see excessive price fluctuations. Europe has to show it has learnt from past crises and apply the lessons and the measures we have used to stop speculation on the financial markets. Time and again our Group has repeated the same message: let’s stop with the mantra of “the invisible hand of the market” which knows how to make things right and will do what is needed. No, we have to play our role as politicians and the EU energy ministers have a crucial role to play as we cannot do it without the member states and the European Commission on board. We have to limit the profits the resellers of energy commodities can make!”
Mohammed Chahim MEP, S&D vice-president for energy, said:
“Speculative behaviours may be hidden at each step of the chain, from producers to distributors of energy. Besides, a major problem is the lack of transparency and the number of intermediaries between the producers and buyers of energy. We have to limit this number – the more intermediaries, the higher the profit they seek and the higher the energy bills are for citizens. Just talking about the social-economic impact of the war in Ukraine is not enough – we need solutions, and our Group was among the first to call for concrete measures to address the energy-price crisis. The market failure of the energy market started long before the Russian invasion this spring.
“Taxing the windfall profits for gas market operators who have excessively benefited from the emergency situation should be among the top priorities of the European Commission and the member states. The resources generated from this should be used to help vulnerable households and small and medium enterprises, including through price caps for electricity bills. It would be a huge mistake to neglect the risk of unemployment. We can apply a lesson learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdowns. We have to extend the temporary unemployment scheme (SURE) to help people who lose their jobs. Protecting consumers should be also among the first priorities, with a recast of the Gas Market Directive. This should make it possible to switch easily from one electricity provider to another and also introduce a ban on disconnecting consumers from the electricity grid during wintertime. In the context of the major challenge Europe is facing, an immediate implementation of the EU minimum wage directive becomes a moral and political obligation for all European and national leaders.”