Leaders from the European Union are set to meet next month to discuss surging energy prices with governments scrambling to cushion households from the soaring prices.
Benchmark European gas prices have shot up by more than 300% this year because of factors including low storage levels, higher demands and outages with economies recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.
As per a draft agenda for the summit, EU leaders will discuss surging energy prices when they next meet on October 21-22.
Countries in the bloc are responsible for their national energy policies; some governments have already intervened to cushion the blow to consumers. Case in point: France has offered a one-off payment to poorer households, while Greece is planning subsidies to help households shoulder higher bills.
“There is an urgent need to discuss the impact of higher prices on low income communities at the highest possible level,” said a diplomat from the EU while adding the bloc must ensure its climate change targets do not push prices up more.
On Tuesday, Luxembourg called on the European Commission to protect the bloc’s internal energy market and safeguard it against potential manipulation by companies.
“It is up to the Commission to ensure the integrity of the European internal market and to ensure that no company takes advantage of its dominant position to exert influence on prices,” said Luxembourg energy minister Claude Turmes said in a letter to the EU’s energy and antitrust chiefs.
“If they were proven, the Commission should put an end to them by all the means at its disposal,” reads the letter.
Brussels is drawing up a “toolbox” of measures that national governments can use to respond to price hikes – such as by tweaking the value-added tax (VAT) on energy.
In a statement the European Commission said, surging energy prices should encourage countries to take steps to shift away from fossil fuels at a faster pace while ensuring consumers have access to affordable renewable energy.