Some EU countries are behaving in a 'very selfish way' to tackle energy crisis, says Polish PM

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By Efi Koutsokosta  & Jorge Liboreiro
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki spoke to Euronews after the EU-ASEAN summit in Brussels.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki spoke to Euronews after the EU-ASEAN summit in Brussels.   -   Copyright  Olivier Matthys/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved

Some European Union member states are behaving in a "very selfish way" to tackle the energy crisis, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has said in an interview with Euronews.

His critical comments come as EU energy ministers failed once again to approve a stalled proposal to impose the first-ever cap on gas prices.

Poland is one of the leading proponents of the price cap, together with Greece, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Malta.

Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Austria, Estonia and Luxembourg are considered to be highly sceptical about the untested measure, worrying security of supplies could be endangered.

Discussions are focusing, among other issues, on how high or how low the cap should be set: the European Commission initially proposed €275 per megawatt-hour, with stringent conditions attached.

The draft infuriated the pro-cap faction, who want the cap to be triggered when prices reach around €200 per megawatt-hour, a level rejected by the anti-cap group.

"Some countries, which have to deal with this crisis from the point of view of the prices of gas and the prices of oil, do this in a very, very selfish way. They do not see the bigger picture," Morawiecki told Euronews on Wednesday evening, ahead of the last EU summit of 2022.

"The cap on gas prices should be found somewhere in the middle of our expectations and some expectations of Germany and the Netherlands and the others. However, the way how they stubbornly blocked this (proposal) is to me quite worrisome because I believe that we are still far from finding a compromise on the gas price cap."

Morawiecki urged his fellow leaders to move beyond their political differences and strike a "common denominator" than can prevent the record-breaking prices seen over the summer.

"We are expecting the European Commission to be more brave and more decisive in finding an appropriate level of gas price," the Polish PM said.

"I expect the European solution to be worked out as quickly as possible, and then this solution could be favourable for the economy and growth of Europe this year and in the following years."

Discussions around the divisive gas cap are set to continue on Monday when EU energy ministers are scheduled to reconvene.

Brussels 'brutally intervening'

In his wide-ranging interview with Euronews, Morawiecki touched upon the Ukraine war, sanctions on Russia and the ongoing rule-of-law rift opposing Brussels to Budapest and Warsaw.

Asked if European citizens were paying too high a price for the impact of sanctions, Morawiecki was quick to stress that "the highest price in Europe is paid by Ukraine" and rejected the idea of offering "security guarantees" to Moscow, as President Emmanuel Macron of France controversially suggested.

"Ukrainians are dying for our freedom and for our security and for a better peace in the whole of Europe," Morawiecki said. 

"Russia, being a superpower, weakened, but still having nuclear weapons and having a strong army really does not require any security or any type of guarantees because they have the guarantees in their own hands. The only country which needs support and guarantees for their sovereignty and security is Ukraine."

Morawiecki came to the defence of Hungary, who this week became the first EU country to have part of its EU funds frozen under a novel rule-of-law conditionality mechanism. 

"As far as the approach of the European Union to Hungary is concerned, I think that given that Hungary has quite a conservative government, this is one of the reasons why Hungary is so much attacked," he said.

"A significant part, if not all, of the attacks, are unjustified."

Morawiecki also criticised the European Commission for launching legal action against Poland over a series of judiciary reforms that, in the EU executive's views, represent a threat to the separation of powers.

Although Poland had long argued the reforms were necessary to purge what it claims to be remains of the Communist era, the government did agree to dismantle the disciplinary regime of judges, declared illegal under EU law, in order to unlock the country's €35-billion COVID-19 recovery plan.

No money has yet been released as the Commission is not fully satisfied with the changes offered by Warsaw.

"We are targeted by the European Commission all the time, for the last couple of years, because they do not agree in repairing, in reforming the post-communist judiciary system," Morawiecki said.

"They are still very brutally intervening beyond their competences, which are not included in the (EU) treaties. And we are quite loud about this. So this is why I'm so surprised with their approach for the last years."