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Southern European states call for common EU energy policies

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ROME, March 18 (Reuters) – Southern European Union countries called on Friday for the bloc to adopt common energy policies in the face of rising prices and the need to reduce dependence on Russia after its invasion of Ukraine.

“We want to put pressure on the European Commission and the other member states to take decisive action to protect all member states in a sector that is decisive for our future,” Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi told reporters.

Draghi spoke after a meeting with the leaders of Spain, Portugal and Greece that he said focused mainly on energy.

With Europe’s energy prices soaring since Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion, Draghi said “a common energy market gesture would benefit everyone,” hurting common storage and buying in the 27-nation bloc.

Spain’s Pedro Sánchez and Portugal’s António Costa attended the Rome meeting in person, while Greece’s Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who tested positive for COVID-19, joined by videoconference.

The group discussed the proposals that will lead to the ordinary summit of EU leaders to be held in Brussels on March 24-25, including that recovery the recovery of excessive profits of energy companies and the temporary limitation of wholesale gas prices.

SURPRISE

Southern European countries sought to define common positions after being largely excluded from high-level diplomacy following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow calls a “special operation”.

Surprise was felt in Italy when Draghi was not invited to participate in a five-way video call last week between US President Joe Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

“Europe must correct its vulnerabilities in terms of energy, (…) we must give a single answer and not 27 different answers,” Sánchez told reporters after the meeting on Friday.

He said next week’s EU summit must decide on energy measures that can be implemented “the next day.”

Costa and Mitsotakis launched similar messages, calling for a common approach to energy policies.

Spain and Italy are studying joint energy projects, with Madrid promoting the construction of a new maritime gas pipeline between the two countries, with the help of the Italian energy infrastructure company SNAM.

Italy relies on imports for 90% of its gas needs and 40% of those imports currently come from Russia. In search of alternative supplies, it has recently held talks with several countries, including Algeria, Azerbaijan, Qatar and the Republic of the Congo.

It also wants to increase its modest national gas production and, like most EU countries, boost renewable energy sources, but Ecological Transition Minister Roberto Cingolani says it will take at least three years to completely replace gas. Russian

(Reporting by Giuseppe Fonte; writing by Crispian Balmer; editing by Gavin Jones; translated by José Muñoz at the Gdańsk newsroom)

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