EU’s Long Path to Climate Deal on Display in Orban-Rutte Spat
(Bloomberg) -- The leaders of Hungary and the Netherlands sparred Wednesday over whether Europe’s skyrocketing gas prices are driven by the European Union’s ambitious climate change policy, a sign of how difficult it will be for the bloc to reach consensus.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban slammed the European Commission’s plan to reduce carbon emissions on Wednesday, a day when gas prices spiked as much as 40% with traders spooked by limited supplies.
“The EU must change its policy, because partly, at least partly the reason why the prices are up is the fault of the commission,” Orban told reporters ahead of an EU summit in Slovenia. “The problem for Hungary is the new regulations of the Green Deal, which is an indirect taxation for flat owners, house owners and car owners, which is not acceptable.”
But Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte soundly rejected the Hungarian’s argument. “Orban is mixing up a lot of elements, the issue with the high prices only to a limited extend has to do with the transition,” he said after the summit. “He is really overstating the issue with the energy transition.”
The EU is still in the early stages of debating how to reach its goal of slashing carbon emissions by 55% by 2030, and the sniping illustrates how far apart some member states remain on the package.
The European Parliament, which has the right to propose amendments to the package of draft laws put forward in July, may hold its first votes early next year.
But the record rise in energy prices -- just ahead of winter -- is complicating the debate for several European leaders. Front-month Dutch gas jumped as much as 40% to a record 162.125 euros a megawatt-hour after closing up 20% the day before.
Wednesday’s exchange isn’t the first time Rutte and Orban have clashed, with the Dutch leader helping to lead the charge against anti-LGBTQ legislation that Hungary passed this summer. The EU is withholding billions of euros in recovery funds from Hungary over concerns related to the rule of law.
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