Two weeks of political and economic vertigo to try to cover the enormous hole created by the consequences of the war in Ukraine. Pedro Sánchez and his entire government, including the United We Can sector, with Yolanda Díaz at the helm, will launch an offensive with trips and meetings with presidents, political groups, employers and unions to achieve a great agreement in Spain and the EU to deal with The consequences of war. The most difficult part, the one that Sánchez will attempt, involves convincing the European partners so that in the next council meeting on the 24th and 25th a profound change in the EU energy market is approved that implies, on the one hand, decoupling the price of gas of electricity, as Spain has been demanding for months, and, on the other hand, allow countries to establish maximum ceilings on the price of electricity.
Sánchez will meet in a week with presidents from eight countries and will travel to five of them (although it is possible that the list will be extended), Slovakia, Italy, Germany, Ireland and Romania, to try to finish off the negotiation that has already begun in Versailles and the last week and which, however, is complex especially because of the resistance of Germany. This Wednesday the Spanish president will receive in Madrid the Prime Minister of Croatia, Andrej Plenkovic and then he will travel to Bratislava to meet his Slovakian counterpart. On Thursday he will travel to Bucharest, the capital of Romania. And on Friday the president will begin the day in Rome with the Italian Mario Draghi and the Portuguese António Costa with the Greek Kyriakos Mitsotakis connected by videoconference because he is infected with covid and will end it in Berlin with the chancellor, Olaf Scholz. On Tuesday the 22nd he will travel to Dublin, and on Thursday the 24th he will be in Brussels for the summit.
The most important of these meetings is the one in Rome, where a powerful southern front could be closed to unite positions on the energy issue and others – the decisive negotiation on the new fiscal rules is also pending – and thus go to Brussels with the strong. It is a relevant turn in the case of Draghi, who until now had opted to try to take advantage of his specific weight in Europe after having directed the ECB to flee from the southern front and focus on the Franco-German axis as if Italy could be a member. more of that privileged club that sets the guidelines in Europe. But in the end, the interests of Italy, as happened at the time with Mario Monti and Mariano Rajoy or with Giuseppe Conte and Pedro Sánchez himself, are very similar to those of Spain, and they usually end up forming a common front. It happened in the euro crisis of 2012 and again when the recovery fund was negotiated in 2020. The great novelty, as Sánchez himself explained last week in Versailles, is that this southern front in favor of limiting the prices of energy is now also joined by a prime minister who belongs to the conservative family, the Greek Mitsotakis.
The plan of the head of the Italian Executive, according to sources from the Chigi Palace, goes through three fundamental elements. Set a maximum purchase price, carry out these operations at the community level – just as he himself proposed to do for vaccines when the pandemic was wreaking greater havoc and suggested applying for energy last September at a meeting in Athens – and apply a system of joint stock storage of the European Union. The Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, has also drafted a document along the same lines and Spain welcomes the plan.
The purchase at the community level would lower prices, whose rise is especially punishing the southern countries. And the idea of setting a ceiling for the price, expressed by the Minister for the Ecological Transition, Roberto Cingolani, in a recent interview in Corriere della Sera, is considered fundamental. But gas storage -Italy has a very advanced system that would allow purchases to be optimized and help other countries in times of difficulty- would be life insurance in crisis situations like the one the continent is going through right now, they believe in the Italian Executive .
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The idea is to present a common position before the European Council next week, since this section was not entirely satisfactory at the informal meeting of the European Union in Versailles last week. The problem, they consider in Italy, is that there is strong opposition from some countries such as the Netherlands, whose energy market is listed on the stock exchange and they do not want this type of regulation. But also from Germany, which works more with liquefied gas that allows another type of storage, or France, much more dependent on nuclear energy and somewhat outside the most acute zone of this crisis.
That is why it is key that after this meeting in Rome, with the southern front well oiled and after a joint appearance by the three prime ministers, Sánchez travels to Berlin to try to convince the Social Democrat Scholz. If Germany’s position turns, the summit will practically be won. Now included in the equation is the arrival of the American Joe Biden, who will travel to Brussels to meet the leaders gathered at this decisive summit.
If the negotiations fail and Spain, supported in this case by Italy, Portugal and others, fails to approve a price limit in the EU, the Government is willing to establish it individually. After this frenetic week, the Executive will meet on the 29th in the Council of Ministers to approve a package of measures that will include a significant reduction in taxes on energy but also aid and a complete plan that will be negotiated with the different parties and with employers and unions these days. The three vice presidents will participate in this negotiation, including Díaz, leader of United We Can, as a sign of unity of the Executive, despite the fact that internal discrepancies are increasingly evident not only on the issue of sending weapons to Ukraine or the increase in Defense spending, but also in the economic measures to be taken.
The PSOE prefers to focus on tax cuts and thus guarantee a great pact with the PP and other groups, something unprecedented that did not occur even at the worst moment of the pandemic, while in United We can also want ambitious social measures and above all fully attack the benefits of electric companies, something that the popular would hardly support. The three vice-presidents will begin the round of parties with the PP tomorrow, a clear gesture that this time, after the unity shown at the conference of presidents, the Government hopes to include the main opposition party in the agreement in the who also aspire to incorporate employers and unions. “Indeed, we believe that this time the agreement is going to happen. The situation is unprecedented, historical, not being in this agreement would be a historical mistake”, summarized the minister spokesperson, Isabel Rodríguez, after the Council of Ministers.
The economic situation caused by the war is worrying, and in fact there are sectors that are already under a lot of tension. Not surprisingly, two key ministers have appeared today, Agriculture, Luis Planas, and Industry, Reyes Maroto. The first has announced a series of aid and also flexibility when it comes to complying with the labor reform in the field as a way of trying to placate very heated spirits in the primary sector, which is preparing for a large demonstration on the 20th in Madrid in the one that Vox is looking for a great protagonism. Planas has insisted on the support of the Executive to the field. “There is concern, there are problems but there is also a government that is working to solve them. Our commitment to the primary sector is unequivocal. My perception is that the primary sector does not want to be left behind and wants to be taken into consideration in the decisions adopted by the Government, and it will be”, he assured in reference to the demonstration on Sunday. For his part, Maroto has acknowledged that they have had more than 600 queries from companies concerned about the increase in energy prices and the problems of some supplies, but has asked for “calm” to give the Government time to seek that agreement in Brussels that would have an immediate impact in lowering the price of energy and would give the industry a lot of peace of mind.