Germany, Spain stick to plan to build new gas pipeline as leaders meet
Germany and Spain are sticking to their plan to build a new gas pipeline across the Pyrenees in defiance of French opposition, a joint action plan showed, as the leaders of the two European nations met on Wednesday in the northern Spanish city of La Coruna.
The meeting between German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez came as their governments disagreed on other possible measures to tackle Europe’s energy crisis in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Spain has backed calls within the European Union for joint borrowing to help the 27-nation bloc navigate the energy crunch together and for a gas price cap. Germany has opposed both measures and come under criticism for going its own way with a vast €200-billion (7.4 trillion baht) relief package its peers could not afford.
“Right now Spain has a regasification potential that could be at Europe’s disposal. The paradox is that Spain and Portugal are energy islands because we are not interconnected but we have European regulations. Therefore what Spain and the Iberian peninsula is asking is to be interconnected, to be part of the energy market. I think that would be good for France, good for Germany, good for Europe and without a doubt in the moment we are living it would bring peace of mind to the whole of Europe because we will have more alternatives,” said Spain’s Sanchez after the meeting.
Scholz did not think France had ruled out building a gas pipeline across the Pyrenees and said he firmly believed Europe needed more energy connections.
“We do not have the impression it has been ruled out,” Scholz said after a meeting with Sanchez.
“Some connections are maybe not economic every day, but they can become it,” he added, referring to French scepticism.
At a time of a shifting balance of power within Europe, Spain and Germany’s leaders vowed to strengthen their alliance and doubled down on their plan to build a new Pyrenean gas pipeline despite opposition from mutual neighbour France.
Scholz and Sanchez held their countries’ first inter-government consultations in nine years, resulting in a joint action plan emphasising closer cooperation, particularly on energy and security matters.
In a joint news conference, the two Social Democrat leaders, who respectively run the European Union’s first and fourth largest economies, played down their differences on how to approach Europe’s energy crisis in the wake of Russia’s war in Ukraine.
The summit came as the EU’s traditional French-German axis appeared to be faltering somewhat and Italy had elected its most right-wing government since World War Two.
Spain and Germany also agreed to strengthen cooperation on defence, but the final version of the action plan excluded a mention in an earlier draft of common “air defence” amid controversy over whether Scholz and Sanchez would discuss plans for a German-led European missile defence shield.
“Regarding the anti-missile shield, reports on which have appeared in the media, I have already said that the bilateral relationship Germany and Spain have from a European and Nato perspective is extraordinary and multiple. We haven’t addressed this issue, we haven’t talked about it but we will study it when it comes,” Sanchez said.
German Ambassador to Spain Maria Margarete Gosse had said late on Tuesday there had already been “low-level” talks between the two Nato members about Spain joining the initiative.