Spanish deputy PM: EU must rethink energy rules to cure its Russian gas addiction
Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Nadia Calviño urged the European Commission on Tuesday to “revise” its energy regulations to help Europe “decouple” from Russian gas amid Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
“In the short term, we need to revise our energy regulation so as to ensure we have the agility and the flexibility to react right now,” Calviño said in a wide-ranging interview at an International Women’s Day event hosted by POLITICO, where she also said she was “very worried” about inflation caused by rising gas prices.
Her call comes after the European Commission on Tuesday announced a proposal that would help EU governments cut their reliance on Russian gas by two-thirds if they adopt a number of emergency measures. In 2021, Russian imports accounted for around 40 percent of the EU’s gas consumption.
Calviño, who is Spain’s first-ever minister for economic affairs and digital transformation, also argued Europe urgently needed to find a way to disconnect the price of gas on international markets from retail electricity prices to stave off rising bills for the everyday European, and encouraged a greater focus on renewables.
But she admitted Spain was one of the “least exposed” to these challenges as the country sources around half its energy from renewables and imports just 9 percent of its gas from Russia.
The deputy prime minister also said she would back a greater harmonization of European countries’ energy policies through joint negotiations of gas contracts in the future.
Responding to a question on whether Spain would support the creation of more joint debt between EU countries on defense and energy, Calviño cautiously said these were “rumors,” but also conceded there had been “discussions” on the topic. In a watershed moment back in 2020, EU leaders agreed to create the bloc’s first-ever shared debt to help ease the financial devastation wrought by the coronavirus pandemic on some of its poorer member states.
On a more positive note, the economist and the former director general for the EU budget said she had seen progress on gender equality in the EU’s institutions since she started working there 16 years ago.
“When I joined the European Commission, there were very few women, even less with family that were in the leading positions,” Calviño said, but argued there had been “very determined action” to address this. “I think that the share of women that now are in leading positions has increased very significantly — and that is very good news, obviously.”
And while Calviño argued there was still work to be done on equality — especially around the gender pay gap — she hinted that there was room for optimism: “Through legislation with a determined policy, we can reduce the gap and we can improve the fairness of our societies.”