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Belgium proposes freezing the price of gas across Europe

Energy prices (c) Belga
17:01 28/02/2022

Belgian energy minister Tinne Van der Straeten (Green) placed a proposal to freeze gas prices on the table of a special summit of European energy ministers on Monday, hoping to cushion the effect of rising prices on families while removing a weapon from the arsenal of Russian president Vladimir Putin. 

But it seems doubtful that the European Commission will be receptive to the idea, reports De Standaard, and a more likely scenario is a mechanism that ensures gas plants– which in most cases, set electricity prices– do not further drive up bills. 

Energy supply will be discussed at the summit, with Germany already announcing plans to build two terminals for purchasing liquified natural gas as an alternative to relying on Russian fuel. 

Belgium faces tough choices about its energy supply 

Prime minister Alexander De Croo (Open VLD) said the war in Ukraine will have “far-reaching consequences” for future decisions on the Belgian energy supply, which the government has planned for 18 March. 

De Croo said such a decision will be “reasoned,” with the Groen party seconding the notion that choices will be made based on facts and figures. Open VLD-chairman Egbert Lachaert already announced last week that he hopes to work towards an energy supply in which gas plays a minimal role.

Energy minister Van der Straeten is in the meantime working on a third support package for electricity and gas, that comes in addition to previous measures.

Demonstrations against high energy bills 

Belgium– along with other European countries– has been struggling with rising costs for energy. A march was held in the centre of Brussels on Sunday, with participants protesting about sky-high energy bills. 

Brussels police said around 6,000 people turned out for the demonstration, which was followed by an address from Raoul Hedebouw, chairman of the PVDA party that organised the march. 

“The government must finally take serious measures,” Hedebouw said, arguing that the VAT on gas and electricity should be reduced to 6% on a structural basis. 

The party would also like the government to dip into the profits of energy suppliers in order to pay for such a reduction, or even make the energy sector public. 

“Only in this way can we solve the problem of exploding prices,” said Hedebouw. “It is normal that people are angry. They see every day that for the De Croo government, the interests of big business are more important than those of the people.”

 

Written by Helen Lyons