In the latest edition of "De cara al mundo", the Onda Madrid programme, we had the intervention of Roberto Gómez-Calvet, Professor of Economics and Business at the European University of Valencia, who spoke about the situation in Europe in the face of the energy crisis. The professor explained the reasons why France opposes the MidCat gas pipeline, which aims to link the peninsula with Europe, especially after the meeting between Olaf Scholz and Pedro Sánchez, as well as the situation of the EU-27 in the current energy crisis, especially with the OPEC+ decision to reduce production by two million barrels per day.
Is France right and is there no need for the pipeline, or is it acting as usual to defend its interests?
I think France wants to take its position in the negotiations. France must have been annoyed that our President and the German Chancellor met to decide something that affects it directly: a gas pipeline in which it has to invest and in which, in a way, it is giving Spain a leading role.
I believe that in the end the pipeline will be built, but France wants to play a leading role and does not want to see a gas pipeline that is benefiting Spain by offering it a leading role and using Spanish regasification infrastructures to help the German government and the German economy.
I believe that France will want to negotiate, as is always the case in the European Union. After a negotiation process that the German Chancellor will have to go through with Macron, some kind of consensus will be reached because it is a benefit for everyone, both for France and for Spain.
In addition to this leading role, France is defending its investments in nuclear power plants, which they want to put to good use, and even more so at this time.
Yes, they have a programme that is very different from the rest of Europe and at the moment it has positioned them much better, because they are more independent than most of the EU-27 countries.
In this negotiation, I believe that Spain should focus on electricity interconnection, which at the moment seems to be in sync with France. In fact, over the last few months, since the Iberian derogation was applied, Spain has been a massive exporter of electricity to France because it is convenient for them and also because France is providing positions in order to carry out all the maintenance they need to do on nuclear power plants at times when consumption is so critical. What France wants is to approach the winter with the recharges carried out in the nuclear power stations and with the maintenance outages carried out, so that it has the greatest possible autonomy.
I believe that Spain and France must finally sit down and negotiate a good electricity plan, which will give Spain greater stability and security of supply. And within this set of decisions, Germany should also play a leading role. Germany has a huge problem because its main supplier has become absolutely unstable, problematic, in a context of a war that we did not expect, and it is difficult to expect to recover gas supplies through Russia.
Therefore, I believe that there must be a process of negotiation, a process of discussion, which is normal, because the European Union, let us not forget, although it has inspiring principles of solidarity and cohesion, is still a union of powerful economies and each one defends its own interests.
The big decisions in the European Union have been taken when the clock stops and the abyss looms. For some time now, we have been hearing Loyola de Palacios, many years ago, calling for a common energy policy for the European Union, bearing in mind that this community has no oil, no gas and a very conditioning external dependence.
Unfortunately, this is the way it is, and the great advances in humanity have unfortunately come about as a result of wars. The Second World War was a huge step forward in terms of technological advances: nuclear energy was discovered and developed, jet planes, which were previously turboprop aircraft, began to be used... Always in a context of war, ingenuity is sharpened and all the mechanisms are tightened to find solutions.
Europe was born with two key problems: to defend itself against war and to protect itself against energy shortages with coal. We are going back to the origins again and it is up to us to solve the problem that we have been aware of since 1950 and 1960, but which we have solved in an incomplete way, and which it will be difficult to solve in a complete way.
We should not be frivolous and think that by installing a lot of intermittent renewables we are going to be independent, because Europe has made a huge effort compared to other countries as the region that has best integrated renewables. Spain has been a leader in the integration of intermittent renewables ahead of the rest of the countries and has a lot of experience, but it is a very long road that must be tackled with the awareness that things cannot be solved in four days and that the energy problem is a problem that is currently strangling the economy.
The German economy is at a crossroads, Spain is in a better situation, but in the end the markets are interconnected and we are going to suffer the oil, electricity and gas prices that our northern neighbours are suffering. We have to look for the best alternatives and alliances, avoiding as far as possible the use of force and also, although this is difficult to do, the use of money to say "we are the richest in the world, we set the prices and we will only supply ourselves with gas", which is what is happening to us now.
We are paying for gas at a price that many countries cannot afford, we have met our storage targets, but we have sent the price of gas to stratospheric levels, and that is going to be unsustainable. Therefore, we have to have common sense and in the short term the best thing we could do is try to rationalise and reduce consumption, because that is what will give us freedom and a guarantee of being able to better control our purchases and, above all, not having to put more money than we can afford to buy it.
Professor, do we as citizens need to be aware, and should the government play its part in this, that we are at war? The war scenario is in Ukraine, but the war also affects us.
We are in an economic situation of war, we are seeing what weapons we are using against our enemies and we are seeing how the enemy is taking actions that try to destabilise our allies, the countries of the European Union that are sometimes offering them gas at a cheaper price, or the countries closest to us, providing them with supplies and not others.
So we must be aware that there is a lot of manoeuvring and that Europe has not caused this war, it has not been the trigger; it has come from a country that is close to us but is not part of the EU.
Europe should have its own identity and know where it is, where it wants to be and with whom it wants to be, that is, it should have its own role and its own identity. There are things that are non-negotiable, such as freedom, the treatment of minorities, how people are treated, but we must have our position, our criteria and, above all, what we must safeguard at all costs is unity. If we decide to fix the maximum price at which we are going to pay for gas, which at the moment is what is being discussed most in recent weeks, we must accept it.
Europe has been relatively strong, it has supplies at a higher level than expected and it has seen that, perhaps, it can reduce gas purchases and can force all the countries that sell gas to us to set a price. What should not happen is that this then generates fissures and that there are countries willing to pay a little more because in the end this will generate mistrust between us. I believe that the Commission is very cautious when it comes to setting objectives that are unattainable or objectives that could generate fissures, because in the end it becomes a weapon against us, and I believe that Russia is an expert in destabilising regions.
We are seeing this right now with oil, with the help of Saudi Arabia among others, with the cut of two million barrels a day that is going to push up the price of crude oil and make us suffer.
Indeed, we will see if, with the excuse of protecting the producer countries, he manages to bring about disunity or turn the economic situation in Europe upside down, because he will have won in some way. If it succeeds in bringing Europe more into line with the United States and benefiting from its reserves, it will also be a small victory for Russia in a way.
I think Europe should be aware of where it is, it should be aware of who its friends have been, who its reliable partners have been, and above all at this time it should seek energy independence, which is very complicated, very difficult, but it should assess how far it can go. Not everything can be paid for with money and the consequences of paying too much today, tomorrow could lead to a very high level of indebtedness, conditions that in the end are detrimental to the welfare state. We must not forget that Europe is the world's leading example in terms of greater social spending, more benefits and higher per capita income, and we should preserve this progress we have made at all costs.