Willegal migration should not be an issue during the meeting of the nine EU countries bordering on the Mediterranean Sea. A signal of unity should go out from Alicante. The Spanish hosts refrained from discussing this during the meeting of the heads of state and government of the southern EU countries (Med-9). The final declaration was content with the brief appeal to seek a “fair balance between solidarity and a fair distribution of responsibility” in the EU migration pact.
Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez did not want a new confrontation in Alicante. As early as November, his government failed to sign the joint declaration in which Italy, Malta, Cyprus and Greece accuse the EU partners of failing to meet their commitments in the distribution of migrants. After that, there was a dispute between France and Italy about the acceptance of boat migrants. In Alicante, the fact that the new Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni canceled at short notice because of the flu helped to ease the tension.
Spain was mainly concerned with Europe’s energy supply and how the south can help. Sánchez tried to win back the initiative from French President Emmanuel Macron. Because in October Spain and Portugal – supported by Germany – were still among the losers. Midcat failed because of Macron’s resistance: First natural gas and later “green” hydrogen could have been delivered from the Iberian Peninsula to France and from there to Europe via the line across the Pyrenees. Fossil natural gas arrives in abundance at the seven LNG terminals in Spain and Portugal, but is stuck in a bottleneck due to a lack of pipeline capacity in the Pyrenees.
Solidarity from the south also has its limits
In Alicante, the three heads of state and government launched “H2Med” with the President of the EU Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. However, the undersea pipeline from Barcelona to Marseille will not be ready until 2030. This is later than would have been the case with Midcat, where in Spain the preparatory work was already relatively advanced. The line, which is a good 450 kilometers long and costs 2.5 billion euros, must also be completely rebuilt. In order for the EU to bear up to 50 percent of the costs, it must not transport fossil natural gas, only green hydrogen. Germany will have to wait for relief to come from south-west Europe. In France, there are also no lines to bring the hydrogen from Marseille to the heart of Europe. With the support of the EU, an “upgrade” of the 250-kilometer pipeline from Celorico to Zamora for 350 million euros will soon begin between Spain and Portugal.
Sánchez celebrated the project as if the “green energy corridor” implemented by France had been his plan from the start. In Alicante, he specifically scheduled a smaller summit on H2Med before the actual summit, which was joined by Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Malta, Croatia and Slovenia. In fact, Spain and Portugal will have to work hard to fill the pipeline with enough hydrogen produced with electricity from wind and solar energy by 2030. Since the very hot summer, Spain has covered more than a third of Portugal’s electricity needs, whose hydroelectric power plants are practically idle; France is also helping Spain with electricity, which was largely produced with natural gas in the summer.
Solidarity from the south also has its limits. Before the Extraordinary Council of EU Energy Ministers in Brussels on Tuesday, the Med-9 make it clear that they reject the EUR 275 gas price cap proposed by the EU Commission. They call for a “dynamic and efficient ceiling” that should be significantly lower. In an interview with the FAZ, the Spanish Environment Minister Teresa Ribera promoted a model that insists on the “average price of the most important markets in the world plus a premium”.