Madrid, Sep 29 (EFE).- The Minister for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge of Spain, Teresa Ribera, says she believes that the gas leaks detected in Baltic waters from the Russian gas pipeline Nord Stream 1 and 2 are a “clear sign of how (Vladimir) Putin plays permanent provocation.”
In an interview with Efe shortly before heading to Brussels, where all 27 EU energy ministers are to meet on Friday to agree on the first package of measures to respond to the energy crisis, Ribera also discussed the recent electoral victory of the Italian far-right leader, Giorgia Meloni, a result Ribera received “with caution, not with pleasure.”
PUTIN’S “PERMANENT PROVOCATION”
With her mind on the extraordinary meeting with her European colleagues, the third vice president of the Spanish Government adopts a serious tone when asked about the three leaks recorded in the Nord Stream, a mishap that the European Union itself and NATO have already rushed to qualify as an “intentional act.”
“It seems to me that it is obvious at this point that it is impossible for there to be three ruptures of these characteristics in two underwater gas pipelines if there is not a sabotage operation behind it,” says Ribera, who insists that it is a “clear sign of how Putin plays permanent provocation.”
In this sense, she recalls some of the Kremlin’s “clearly provocative” decisions, such as “playing with the threat of the Zaporiya nuclear power plant or burning the gas at the point of entry of gas pipelines from Russia.”
“This confirms the message of ‘I know how to play rough with respect to energy supplies’,” indicates the minister, who advocates that Europe take it “as a serious threat” in the face of which “to continue being intelligent, with that vocation to respond in a united, solidary and effective way” to succeed in isolating Putin.
HUNGARY’S ‘COUNTERPRODUCTIVE RIDDLES’
During the talk, Ribera repeats, as if it were a mantra, that Europe “must remain firm, very firm.” However, she acknowledges that in recent months, marked by the war in Ukraine and the energy crisis, “the least positive of all have been the very counterproductive dalliances of the Hungarian government towards Moscow.”
She refers to the position of the Hungarian Prime Minister, the ultra-nationalist Viktor Orban, Putin’s only ally in the European Union, and that, although the country has joined the bloc’s sanctions, Orban has criticized their impact on the economy on numerous occasions and has refused to support Ukraine militarily.
In fact, at the beginning of the month, Orban publicly warned that the sanctions against Russia had failed and could leave Europe without energy.Faced with this vision, Ribera is blunt: “the best response continues to be a response of support for Ukraine and economic sanctions (on Russia).”
DIPLOMATIC TALKS FOR A GAS CAP
Shortly before the interview, the European Commission proposed a new round of sanctions against Russia, including a cap on the price of imported Russian oil, in line with the agreement reached by the G7.
However, Spain continues to maintain that this limit “must be extended to all exchanges,” which “requires reflection on whether there must be different price thresholds, and, obviously, a strategy behind it, a prior work action, of listening and of agreement identification.”
All with the aim of “avoiding a snubbed reaction,” says Ribera, who thinks that “it is a serious and important enough conversation to have had it a long time ago and, in his case, to have it as soon as possible.”
The third vice president understands that the cap on gas “is an issue that requires a prior diplomatic conversation,” explaining why they consider “it is important to give a sign of stability around prices.”
“The message is clear: it will not be possible to return the price of gas to the level it has been for many years, around 20 or 30 euros per megawatt-hour (MWh), but we must make it clear that the margin for improving prices is remarkable, that we are not willing to pay 200 and 300 (euros) as is happening,” she adds.
Spain is among the 15 countries -representing more than 64% of the population of the European Union- that have sent a letter to the European Commission this week to put on the table “as soon as possible” a proposal that limits the price of all imports of natural gas.
AN ENERGY INFRASTRUCTURE “FOR THE FUTURE” WITH FRANCE
Among the signatories of the letter is France, after having relaxed its initial position, but will it finally change its mind about a new interconnection with Spain?