The Secretary General of the European People’s Party (EPP), Antonio Lopez, said in an interview with “NEA” newspaper that he agrees with the initiative of the Greek government to take unilateral measures to alleviate citizens’ energy costs in the absence of a coordinated European framework. Mr. Lopez visited Athens and spoke at the New Democracy Congress. The Spanish MEP highlighted the role of Greece as an energy hub of Europe, while he is in favor of the reform of the European Treaties.
We started the discussion from the beginning of the works for the floating liquefied gas unit FSRU in Alexandroupolis, a project that took over a decade to start.
“The northern countries did not listen to Greece and Cyprus, and I was present when they argued that we need alternative inputs for gas supply. Alexandroupolis is not an unknown name to me. I remember Mr. Mitsotakis and Mr. Anastasiades supporting the issue at EPP conferences, but the northern countries did not respond. “Europe needs diversification in energy and Alexandroupolis is key in this effort,” he said.
We move on to the discussion on Draghi’s statements from the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Tuesday, and in particular on the Italian Prime Minister’s call for a change in the European Treaties.
“European Treaties are not forever. They have to adapt to the different realities and crises facing the EU. We do not yet have an integrated European Union. We have to adapt and reform the Treaties over time, as the needs of our societies change,” said Mr Lopez, citing the process of electing a commission president as an example. “Citizens are calling for more transparency in EU procedures. Why not elect the next President of the Commission with the vote of all Europeans and not through secret procedures in the Council. We are also talking about supranational lists in the election of MEPs, which means that in the future we will have MEPs elected from all over Europe,” said the Spanish politician. He is also in favor of a qualified majority on foreign policy issues, without blocking decisions by a country’s veto. “We need strong majorities. Ukraine has highlighted this need. “The Treaties are not immutable they must be adapted to the realities,” he stressed.
Does the EU need a new ‘Next Generation EU’ scheme to respond to the energy crisis and the need to increase defense spending? we ask him. “Yes, of course, there are challenges,” he said, quoting Jean Monnet as saying that the EU is shaped by crises. “Europe is coming together when we are facing major crises,” he said. In the field of defense, he believes that the EU must address the threats in cooperation with NATO, the US and other democracies, but also through a European approach. “There must be better European coordination in energy and some countries will have to explain to us why they gave up nuclear energy and became dependent on Putin’s gas. Greece can become an excellent energy hub for natural gas from Egypt, from the Mediterranean. It will bring stability. The participation of Greece and Cyprus in the 3 + 1 framework with Israel and the USA creates conditions of stability in the region, which is necessary for Europe. We need this energy hub. ” We asked him if he was referring to the East Med pipeline. “Yes, I have publicly supported the project, since I was informed by Mr. Mitsotakis and Mr. Anastasiades. “I feel safe to know that Greece and Cyprus will be the EU’s next energy hub.”
We also asked him about the lack of a common pace in Europe in dealing with rising energy costs, despite proposals from both the Greek Prime Minister and other leaders of Italy and Spain. “Perhaps we should move on, as we did in the past. Who was the first to take action against the pandemic? As a Spaniard, I know the answer, because there was a relevant debate in the Spanish Parliament. At the time when the Spanish government was not doing anything, Mr. Mitsotakis was taking measures, which the European Council was slow to accept, but he himself went ahead. He was courageous on his part and finally the European Council adopted the measures. This must be done now. “Brave leaders, the Greek Prime Minister must act and I know they want to do it,” he said, noting that energy costs are not just a Greek problem. It worries all of Europe “.
The Commission has announced a sixth package of sanctions against Russia, but there are voices that argue that unless there is a ban on Russian gas, Putin will continue to finance the war, we point out.
“Europe is indeed trapped in this dilemma. Next winter, northern countries, which, I repeat, have not previously supported alternative energy sources, may face difficulties. You can not turn off the tap overnight. Sanctions are needed, but we must take into account the impact on our own people.”
We close the debate with a question about the danger that the crisis of accuracy will reinforce populism in Europe. I’m always worried about populism and we have to deal with it democratically,” he said, noting that when populists come to power, people quickly realize that there are no magical solutions other than hard work by society as a whole to tackle problems.