Energy
Business 07/09/2022

Brussels stays out of Midcat debate and leaves it in the hands of Spain and France

The European Commission says it is not listed as a priority because the two states left it on "pause" in 2019

2 min
The MidCat pipeline is built to the town of Hostalric.

BrusselsThe European Commission avoided taking a position yesterday on the construction of the Midcat pipeline after French President Emmanuel Macron rejected that it could that it could alleviate the energy crisis Europe is experiencing. "Any additional cross-border infrastructure project connecting the Iberian peninsula with the rest of Europe has to be analysed by the member states involved and the promoter", the Energy spokesman of the community executive, Tim McPhie, said.

In fact, the European Commission has recalled that the Midcat does not even appear on the EU's list of projects of common interest because Madrid and Paris failed to reach an agreement and in 2019 decided to leave it "on pause". The fact is, however, that the Elysée has always been very skeptical has always been very sceptical about the idea of building a new gas pipeline connecting Catalonia and France, but since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, Spain –and also Germany– has been very insistent on its desirability. Yesterday, Macron, precisely after meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, was more forceful than ever on Midcat, stressing that it is "factually false" that it can solve the energy crisis, and argued that the two current gas connections between Spain and France are only used at 52% of their capacity and that it is his country that now exports gas to the Iberian peninsula and not the other way around.

However, the Spanish government is not giving up. This Tuesday, third vice-president and minister for Ecological Transition Teresa Ribera downplayed the fact that the European Commission does not back the construction of the Midcat and has countered that, although it is not on the EU list of projects, it does appear in the annex of the RePowerEU document on energy. "It is hasty to make a statement because it will probably be discussed on Friday at the meeting of [EU] energy ministers and it is one of the issues that will still catch European leaders' interest for a long time," Ribera said, Ot Serra reports from Madrid.

In the same line as the Spanish government, the Catalan government spokesperson Patrícia Plaja insisted this Tuesday that the Generalitat, despite the fact that it has not been discussed at the cabinet meeting, continues to defend the suitability of promoting Midcat. "It is a realistic and profitable option," he responded at a press conference, as reported by Quim Bertomeu from Barcelona.

No European funding

The European Commission's energy spokesman also recalled that, according to recently approved legislation on energy infrastructures, projects based on fossil fuels such as gas cannot be financed with EU money. The Midcat, however, could have the status of priority European project and count on European subsidies for its construction if it could also be used to transport green hydrogen, as the Spanish government claims. The French government, however, doubts this is the case.

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