Brussels, 21 October 2021 (dpa/MIA) – EU leaders are to meet on Thursday for talks that were due to be dedicated dramatically rising energy prices, but now look set to be overshadowed by a showdown with Poland over the supremacy of EU law.
A recent Polish Constitutional Court ruling that parts of EU law were incompatible with its own national constitution has brought years of simmering tensions over rule-of-law issues to a head once again.
European Commission President Urusla von der Leyen vowed to respond, threatening fresh legal action. Warsaw is doubling down, accusing EU officials of unfairly singling them out and overstepping treaty-based powers.
It is unclear how the dispute can be de-escalated. The Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg want to take a hard line, but Germany has stressed the importance of dialogue.
Less explosive but also divisive is the question of energy prices, with the spectre of a citizen backlash against the planned EU transition to renewable energies hovering over the 27 leaders.
Last week, the commission presented a so-called “toolbox” of measures member states can implement to shield consumers from surging heating and electricity bill.
Options include lowering taxes, direct payments to vulnerable households or state aid for small businesses.
But countries like Spain and France and are calling for more far-reaching measures on the European level.
Among the proposals to be discussed are joint gas storage and procurement – though a consensus on this is far from likely, as Germany for instance is critical.
France has also called for an overhaul of the system for electricity pricing in Europe. Paris is at the same time using the situation to promote nuclear energy, which is unpopular in Berlin, for instance.
Poland, meanwhile has accused the Russian gas giant Gazprom of withholding gas deliveries and contributing to the price hike.
Von der Leyen said the firm had honoured its long-term contracts but had not responded to higher demand as in previous years.
Far-reaching agreements on energy policy are unlikely at the summit, as opinions still widely diverge.
Before the end of the talks of Friday, the 27 premiers are also to address the Covid-19 situation in the bloc, with infections surging again in several member states and vaccination rates still divergent.
Progress towards shared digitalization goals and on migration reform are also on the agenda.