France and Italy handed rare victory over EU – bloc backs down on hated rules


Italian politician Matteo Salvini welcomed a closely-watched European Commission decision to recognise gas and nuclear as green sources of power. The former Italian deputy prime minister tweeted: “Even the EU Commission gives the green light to clean and safe nuclear power as the energy of the future, now it’s our turn!”

French MEP Dominique Bilde, replied with: “Bravo Matteo Salvini! We need nuclear energy!”

EU Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis told a press conference on Wednesday: “For the energy mix of the future we need more renewables, but also stable sources and the Commission will adopt a taxonomy that also covers nuclear and gas.”

A list of environmentally sustainable economic activities, the taxonomy aims to direct investment towards green projects as the EU works towards meeting 2030 climate and energy targets.

Mr Dombrovskis added: “We do not have a concrete date for the Commission’s proposal, but it will be done in the near future without delay.”

France and Italy have pushed for gas and nuclear to be included in the taxonomy and hailed his words as a significant victory.

But Greenpeace Belgium campaigners compared giving the energy sources a green label to crashing a meteorite into Europe’s Green Deal.

Activists installed a four-metre high “Taxonosaurus Rex” made of scrap metal outside EU buildings in protest.

Mr Dombrovskis’ comments come after pressure from French and Italian politicians with President Emmanuel Macron keen to ensure France’s energy independence.

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Vincenzo Amendola, Italy’s Undersecretary to the Presidency of the Council of Ministers with responsibility for European Affairs, said each country has to make certain choices to achieve 2030 and 2050 climate goals.

He added: “For some countries like ours, gas in the transition is important, for other countries there are other critical elements that are stressed.”

Rome further welcomed the news with Vannia Gava, a deputy of the Lega political party and Undersecretary at the Ministry of Ecological Transition, tweeting: “It is good that the EU Commission has included the latest generation of safe and clean gas and nuclear in the taxonomy.

“We need stable sources, which will protect our country from the unjustified price fluctuations that are sending businesses and citizens into crisis.”

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European energy prices soared to record highs in autumn with tight gas supplies combining with high demand as economies recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bloc has been split over how to respond to the crippling crisis.

Spain, Italy, France, Greece, Poland and Romania proposed changing EU energy price rules, but Austria, Germany, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Latvia and the Netherlands rejected the proposal.

The latter published a joint statement arguing price increases were transitory and should not dictate a rule change.

They argued that price caps or switching to a different system of setting national power prices could discourage trade in electricity between countries and undermine incentives to add low-cost renewable energy to the mix.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said last month that price rises jeopardise the social and economic sustainability of the energy transition.

But Economy Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni told a German newspaper: “Hasty reforms in the energy markets are dangerous.

“Because of price increases, the political pressure is very high right now, but that should not lead to hasty reactions, also because the price development is probably only temporary.

“Otherwise, we run the risk of intervening with changes in a market that normally functions extremely well.”

The Commission said it would study the benefits of longer-term options and asked regulators to investigate whether EU carbon and electricity markets function properly.

Additional reporting by Maria Ortega.



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