Brussels/Madrid/Meseberg (Europapress) – The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has defended the need to reform the electricity market in Europe, arguing that it was designed “for different circumstances” and, by linking the price of gas to that of other energies, has now created the “exorbitant” prices which have to be paid on the continent in the context of the war in Ukraine.

At the Bled Strategic Summit in Slovenia, Von der Leyen called for cutting all energy dependence on Russia to end “blackmail”, and urged a commitment to green transition and renewable energies.

“The era of Russian fossil fuels in Europe is over,”

said the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.

Meanwhile, Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz have staged a joint effort to advance the Midcat project, a pipeline to carry gas from the Iberian Peninsula to the rest of Europe. France, after its initial reluctance, now considers examining this option (August 29-30).

Romania to boost production of batteries and photovoltaic panels

Bucharest (Agerpres) – The Romanian Ministry of Energy has released for public consultation the documents regarding access to European funds from the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRRP) for the production of batteries, photovoltaic panels and storage capacities, announced the responsible minister, Virgil Popescu.

According to Popescu, the industrial value chain for batteries will allow for a total annual battery manufacturing and assembly capacity of at least 2 GW. Meanwhile, the industrial value chain for photovoltaic cells and panels will extend to a total annual capacity of at least 200 MW by December 31, 2025.

Eligible applicants are small, medium and large enterprises, whose articles of association include activities related to the production and sale of electricity. The allocated budget amounts to EUR 104 million composed of  EUR 80 million in non-reimbursable funds provided by the RRF (Recovery and Resilience Facility) and national funds in the amount of EUR 24 million. The aid is granted  in the form of reimbursement of expenses incurred and cannot exceed EUR 167,000 per MWh of storage and EUR 15 million per enterprise and investment project. (August 30)

BSF: The EU does not need a new enlargement strategy for the Western Balkans

Bled (STA) – The EU does not need a new enlargement strategy for the Western Balkans, but the existing one needs to be implemented, said Miroslav Lajčak, the EU representative for the dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo. He stated this in a panel dedicated to EU enlargement to the Western Balkans, held within the framework of the Bled Strategic Forum. As Lajčak asserted, the EU is ready for new enlargement.

Christian Schmidt, High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), said that the EU must do everything to speed up the integration of the countries of the Western Balkans. There was no alternative to the European integration of these countries, but there was no need for two parallel expansions with the countries of the Western Balkans, or a two-speed Balkan, said the American envoy for the Western Balkans, Gabriel Escobar. He also stated that all the governments of the Western Balkan countries should do their homework when approaching European integration, and that in BiH all three main parties had failed in this regard. With the war in Ukraine, the economic and food crisis, the chances of BiH getting candidate status are diminishing, according to Minister of Foreign Affairs Bisera Turković. She raised the question of whether the EU is really ready to help BiH on its way towards accession, or whether this is just part of the political game, as many in BiH see it. The Foreign Minister of North Macedonia, Bujar Osmani, believes that the EU maintained its credibility at the last minute when it started membership negotiations with North Macedonia in July. (August 30)

Austria currently rules out participation in EU training mission for Ukraine

Prague (APA) – Austrian Defence Minister Klaudia Tanner is currently ruling out Austria’s participation in an EU training mission for the Ukrainian military. “I don’t see any way to be there at this point in time,” Tanner said on August 30 after an informal meeting with her EU counterparts in Prague. She emphasized that “legal and local issues” as well as content-related questions needed to be clarified.

“It is beyond question that we naturally have limits here, given the state of war,” Tanner answered in response to a question about neutrality. According to the Minister of Defence, a so-called fact-finding mission will first create a concept within one month. Once all questions have been clarified, Austria will assess “how to deal with the issue”. Tanner also referred to the question of locality. According to the Treaty of the European Union, the envisaged EU training mission would have to take place outside European Union territory and require a unanimous vote of consent from all EU member states. Austria could once again “constructively abstain” due to its neutrality, confirmed Tanner. (August 30)

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz wants to strengthen Europe with reforms

Prague (dpa) – With far-reaching reforms, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz wants to strengthen the European Union and make it fit for enlargement. In his keynote speech at Charles University in Prague on August 29, Scholz advocated simplified decision-making processes, a crisis-proof asylum system and closer cooperation in the areas of armaments and defence. Scholz specifically announced that he wanted to set up a new air defence system together with European neighbours.

“We must bring the weight of a united Europe to bear much more. (…) Together, we have the very best chance of helping to shape the 21st century in a European sense,” said Olaf Scholz during his visit to the Czech Republic. The chancellor stressed that the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine had welded the EU together. Scholz supported the French idea for a new European political community, which should enable closer exchange with partners from outside the European Union. There is currently no forum at which EU heads of state and government could discuss key topics with partner states once or twice a year – for example on issues such as security, energy or climate protection. The idea for such a community came from French President Emmanuel Macron.

“Such a forum – this is very important to me – is no alternative to the upcoming EU enlargement,” emphasized the Chancellor. “We have made promises to our candidate countries – the countries of the Western Balkans – for almost 20 years.” Scholz campaigned for closer cooperation in the defence sector. He argued that a common air defence system would be less expensive and more powerful than national solutions. He cited the Netherlands, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, the Baltic States and the Scandinavian countries as potential partners for this. Scholz also called for an independent Council of EU Defence Ministers. The chancellor emphasized his support for an EU enlargement to include the states of the Western Balkans, Ukraine, Moldova and, in the future, Georgia.

“The fact that the EU continues to grow eastward is a gain for all of us,”

says German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

In order to make the EU fit for this, he wants, among other things, to change the composition of the EU Parliament. If you didn’t want to inflate the parliament, then it needed “a new balance in terms of its composition”, demanded Scholz. “And this is also in compliance with the democratic principle, according to which every vote should have roughly the same weight.” Countries with smaller populations are disproportionately represented in the EU Parliament compared to countries with large populations such as Germany. (August 29)

This is a compilation of the European coverage of enr news agencies. It is published Wednesdays and Fridays. The content is an editorial selection based on news by the respective agency.