The European Union was set to announce a raft of options on Wednesday for members to tackle the issue of spiraling energy costs.
Brussels is seeking to soften the impact on consumers of an expected energy shortage that could send domestic bills soaring.
Why is the EU doing this?
The intention is to give member states the ability to ensure energy prices are kept low without breaching strict competition rules.
Some member states have already stepped in at the national level to curb soaring prices.
France has already promised a price ceiling and was planning to offer poorer households a payment of €100 ($115) each. Meanwhile, Italy is considering measures such as providing relief through tax cuts.
In the medium term, Spain, France and Greece have all called for more comprehensive measures at the European level. They want the bloc to coordinate gas purchases, create joint gas storage and sever a link between the price of electricity and gas.
Concrete negotiations are planned for the EU summit on October 21 and 22.
Why are energy prices rising?
Fuel and electricity prices have risen as national economies appear to be recovering from the effects of the COVID pandemic.
Russia — the source of most of the imported gas into the bloc — has been accused by some EU officials of cutting supplies in an effort to force Germany to activate the newly completed Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
The pipeline’s route crosses the Baltic Sea, bypassing Ukraine, and some member states see its development as a geopolitical ploy by the Kremlin.
However, outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel has questioned that explanation, instead suggesting that European countries have failed to secure sufficient long-term gas contracts.
rc/aw (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)