The president of France Emmanuel Macron expressed his opposition to the Iberian plan at a summit in Prague arguing that Europe should instead invest in electricity interconnections.
Proposals by Portugal and Spain for a gas pipeline to connect the Iberian Peninsula to the rest of Europe are continuing to be blocked by France, with its president, Emmanuel Macron, again expressing his opposition to the plan at a summit in Prague arguing that Europe should instead invest in electricity interconnections.
Asked about the issue upon arrival in Prague, where an informal political summit of European leaders is being held on Friday, Macron began by saying he has spoken “many times” about this issue, pointing out that current connections are underused, with France at times even exporting gas to Spain, and again opposed a project that he said would take “five to eight years” to realise, keeping Europe heavily dependent on gas imports from third countries.
The French head of state said that there are already “many interconnections” that allow France to “export gas to Germany and even Spain for example” – two countries, in addition to Portugal, that have insisted on the importance of the gas pipeline – and claimed that the current connection is underused. This, he said, shows that the so-called ‘MidCat’ interconnection project is not the solution that Europe needs.
“I support interconnection projects, but what does Europe need in the coming years?” he said. “To produce more electricity on its soil and to have a renewable and nuclear strategy. And are we using the full capacity of the existing connections? No, we are at fifty or sixty percent.”
Moreover, Macron continued, the gas pipeline project to link the Iberian Peninsula to the rest of Europe through the Pyrenees “will take five to eight years” to realise.
“And do we have the will to be durably large importers of gas?” he queried rhetorically. “No, our strategy is mainly about hydrogen. If it is about hydrogen, we should say so now.
“The question we must ask ourselves is whether we are going to circulate hydrogen throughout Europe or, rather, electricity to make electrolysis [to generate green hydrogen]. It is a real strategic discussion that we should have. I believe that our priority is rather an electric interconnection in Europe, and so I am more in favour of that project.”
Portugal and Spain have long pressed France to honour its commitments, made notably at an interconnection summit held in Lisbon in 2018 – when Macron was already in office – and, previously, at a summit in Madrid in 2015.
On 22 September, in an interview with Lusa in Brussels, Portugal’s secretary of state for European affairs had said that the government still believed that it would be “possible to convince France” to back interconnections from the Iberian Peninsula for the supply of gas, and later hydrogen, to Europe. But he acknowledged that there was an alternative.
“There is currently another scenario that is being studied, which is the hypothesis of a direct connection between Spain and Italy, by sea,” he said. “So if it is not possible to go ahead with MidCat, we are naturally considering that other scenario and we think it could be an alternative.”