EU urges members to protect poor residents amid energy hikes
BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union's executive branch advised the 27 EU member countries Wednesday to adopt tax cuts, state aid and other measures to help households and businesses weather the impact of high energy prices that have fuelled a renewed debate on the use of nuclear power.
After months of economic instability linked to the coronavirus pandemic, the European Commission wants a rapid and joint response to mitigate the effects of the price hikes, especially for people living in poverty or on low incomes.
“Rising global energy prices are a serious concern for the EU.
As we emerge from the pandemic and begin our economic recovery, it is important to protect vulnerable consumers and support European companies,” EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson said.
To help consumers, the European Commission proposed that countries offer income support through vouchers, bill payment deferrals or partial bill payments, which can be supported with revenue from the EU's emissions trading system.
Its other recommendations for national governments are introducing safeguards to avoid service disconnections, cuts in taxation rates and aid for certain companies or industries.
The commission said it also wants to see longer-term measures to prepare the EU for such possible price shocks, including accelerating investment in renewable energy sources and developing energy storage capacity.
EU officials have said the bloc as a whole currently has a storage capacity for more than 20% of its annual gas use but not all member countries have storage facilities.
The commission said it would also consider developing a joint procurement program for gas reserves, an idea recently proposed by Spain.
The EU depends heavily on imported gas, mainly from Russia.
Simson said that participation in the joint purchasing program would be voluntary “and the scheme should respect competition rules.”
EU officials said 20 member countries have already taken, or are planning to take action to alleviate the added financial strain.
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