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MidCat project reveals the limits of European solidarity

Russia's offensive in Ukraine has exposed Europe's excessive energy dependence on Russian hydrocarbons
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PHOTO/REUTERS  -   Spain now wants to relaunch the gas interconnection project with France, especially since it has been approved by the European Commission

Launched in 2013 by Spain and Portugal to enable the Iberian peninsula to sell the gas it imports to the whole of central Europe, the MidCat gas pipeline project - supposed to stretch over 200 kilometres to connect Hostalric, north of Barcelona, with Barbaira, off the coast of Carcassonne in France - was relegated and then abandoned in 2019 on various pretexts, such as that the project did not meet the expected promises of security of supply and economic viability, or that there was too much opposition from local environmental protection associations.

Faced with the need to free itself from Russian gas, Spain now wants to relaunch the gas interconnection project with France, especially since it has been approved by the European Commission. However, the MidCat project now seems frozen and has crystallised tensions between Europeans.

On the one hand, Spain is in favour of relaunching the project, as evidenced by the Spanish Minister for Ecological Transition, who declared on 12 August that work on the Spanish part of the MidCat project could be completed in "eight or nine months" and that it would allow the development of future hydrogen transport infrastructures. The Spanish daily La Vanguardia writes that "La Generalitat - the autonomous government of Catalonia - has been asking for it for months. Madrid is now ready to resume the work that has been put on hold. It is up to France to do its part.

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In fact, this project mainly pits Spain against France, which perceives it as a project that would mainly benefit the Germans. Researcher Thierry Bros explains that France has no reason to invest in a project whose main beneficiaries would be the Germans. He reminds us that "we (Europeans) are not Berlin's vassals".

Bros believes that this project would primarily serve Germany, which is heavily dependent on Russian hydrocarbons and is currently at a greater disadvantage than other EU member states. Researcher Thierry Bros believes that the current German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, 'has only himself and the bad decisions made by successive German governments since former chancellor Angela Merkel came to power to blame'.

The French government is generally unmoved by the affair, with the Ministry of Ecology, Energy and Territory declaring that it has "no comment to make" on the matter, as the project is "unfeasible due to its circumstantial disinterest in these times of crisis"