Roberta Metsola stands by words on EU energy dependence on autocratic regimes

With the EU Commission signing off on an agreement with Azerbaijan, Metsola stood by her word that the EU should not depend on autocratic regimes for its energy supply

Roberta Metsola said the EU had to prove it wanted to be a global democratic power by welcoming new member states
Roberta Metsola said the EU had to prove it wanted to be a global democratic power by welcoming new member states

European Parliament President Roberta Metsola has stood by previous comments she made that the EU should not be dependent on autocratic regimes to secure its energy supply.

In an official comment to MaltaToday, a spokesperson for Metsola said that she stands by what she had said in a previous interview that the bloc should not go from one unreliable parter to another.

During the interview with LovinMalta, Metsola was sceptical on the idea of turning to Azerbaijan as an alternative energy resource.

She instead argued that the EU should look to countries within the EU with their own energy supplies, like Spain and Portugal, and see if there’s potential to create links with them. “For countries that find themselves looking to third countries, we’re looking at Algeria, Egypt... North Africa is crucial.”

Last Monday, the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen met with Azerbaijan’s Ilham Aliyev to sign a new Memorandum of Understanding on a Strategic Partnership in the Field of Energy.

The agreement is a bid to move Europe away from Russian fossil fuels. Russia’s gas deliveries to Europe amounted to 155 billion cubic meters (bcm) in 2021, but current EU plans call for Azerbaijan to supply only a fraction of that, just 12 bcm, by the end of this year.

But the decision to go to Azerbaijan for gas supplies raised eyebrows, both in Malta and abroad.

Since 2014, Malta has sourced gas through Azerbaijan’s trading arm in Geneva, SOCAR, a deal tainted by corruption accusations linked to former prime minister Joseph Muscat’s closest allies in government at the time the Panama Papers broke.

News of the deal with Aliyev was relished by Labour proponents, who saw the agreement as a confirmation of Muscat’s gras strategy.

Muscat issued his own message on Facebook after news of the deal came out. “It was part of a plan to reduce energy bills that had impoverished the vulnerable, ruined a middle class and stagnated business. We kept these prices stable, as well as fuel prices, for years without the need of any subsidies.”

Nationalist MEP David Casa was quick to shoot down any comparisons between Malta’s energy deal with Socar and the EU’s agreement for gas. He said that the latter was “fully transparent” with no stench of corruption in it.

“This is the stark difference between the agreement of the Labour government and the one signed by the European Commission.”