By Paul Messad
(EurActiv) — The European Parliament voted on a resolution to tackle energy prices on Wednesday (5 October), which includes the relaunch of the MidCat pipeline linking Spain with France, despite opposition from French MEPs.
The resolution, adopted on Wednesday, seeks to relaunch the construction of energy infrastructures “like those linking the Iberian Peninsula and France,” in order to ensure the EU’s energy security.
French MEPs argue the aim is to revive the debate on the MidCat gas pipeline project, which the German, Spanish and Portuguese governments have been calling for since late August.
The MidCat project, which was abandoned in 2018 following cost and impact studies, was designed to link Catalonia (Spain) to Occitania (France), opening up a third route to bring North African gas from Spain to Central Europe.
French MEPs were united in their opposition to relaunch the MidCat project, Stéphane Séjourné, president of the centrist Renew group in the European Parliament, told EURACTIV France.
All group leaders, with the exception of those from the far-right Identity and Democracy (ID) group, voted in favour of an amendment by French MEP Marie Toussaint (Greens/EFA), who opposes the relaunch.
Other high-profile French MEPs -– such as Manon Aubry (Left), Raphaël Glucksman (S&D), Stéphane Séjourné (Renew), and François-Xavier Bellamy (EPP) – all voted in favour of Toussaint’s amendment.
However, the French aside, most MEPs, especially from the centre and the right, are in favour of relaunching the MidCat project.
As a result, Toussaint’s amendment was rejected by 466 votes to 123 with 38 abstentions.
According to Parliament sources, the panic over the sabotage of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline has helped return discussions on the MidCat pipeline to the forefront of European politics.
On Monday, María del Carmen Barrera, confederal secretary for Spain of the European Economic and Social Committee’s (EESC) Workers’ Group, said that “the MidCat [could] be a key element in current and future energy exchanges”.
On the same day, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron met in Berlin. However, no agreement on a common position was reached, according to the German newspaper Handelsblatt.
The French Ministry of Energy Transition stated four days earlier (29 September) that the French government’s position had not “evolved”: the project was still considered too expensive and too lengthy, and thus incompatible with the emergency of the current energy crisis.
Following Ursula von der Leyen’s State of the Union speech on 14 September, EPP group president Manfred Weber told EURACTIV that France should display more European solidarity.
“If Emmanuel Macron is not ready to build a gas pipeline to Spain, then he is damaging the idea of a European energy market,” he said.
The European Commission has not yet taken a stand on whether or not to relaunch the MidCat project.
The parliamentary resolution has no binding value. It is only of political value, but can nevertheless influence future proposals and decisions of the European executive.