(Bloomberg) -- The leaders of Germany and Spain raised pressure on French President Emmanuel Macron to drop his resistance to a natural gas pipeline they see as key to reducing European dependence on Russian energy supplies.
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The proposed MidCat link, which would also enable hydrogen to flow from the Iberian Peninsula via the Pyrenees mountains to the rest of Europe, was at the top of the agenda in a meeting between Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on Wednesday.
“I’m very much promoting the idea that we should build this connection,” Scholz told reporters following the bilateral talks with Sanchez in the northern Spanish city of A Coruna.
Following a meeting with Macron in Berlin earlier this week, Scholz voiced cautious optimism that France might drop its opposition. Germany and Spain want to convince France of the benefits of such a pipeline for Europe as a whole, the two leaders said.
“We are asking for the Iberian peninsula to be interconected, and that is good for France and for all of Europe,” Sanchez said.
In a joint action plan, both leaders said they would continue to lobby for better interconnections to enhance the supply security for the bloc as a whole, calling the MidCat pipeline of “paramount importance.”
Berlin wants to tap Spain’s vast power infrastructure to help Europe’s biggest economy weather future winters without Russian gas. Germany has historically relied on Russia for about one-third of gas imports and has suffered as President Vladimir Putin turned off the taps to pressure European nations who oppose his war in Ukraine.
Scholz and Sanchez want the pipeline to be ready to use by 2025 to help shore up the European Union’s internal energy market, boost access to cleaner fuels and increase autonomy. Spain holds one-third of the continent’s re-gasification capacity and has vowed to increase exports to countries in central Europe.
Macron has repeatedly dismissed the project, which was already abandoned in 2019, arguing that it isn’t needed and that it would likely get bogged down in legal challenges over its environmental impact. France generates most of its power from nuclear reactors, although it has been hampered by maintenance issues that have led to shutdowns.
Sanchez has said his government could seek to build an underwater pipeline connecting Barcelona and Italy’s Livorno through the Mediterranean, which is a more expensive option that could take years to build. Germany is also exploring other alternatives to bypass France.
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Separately, Germany and Spain discussed speeding up the ratification of free-trade agreements with New Zealand, Chile, Mexico and Mercosur, a South American bloc including Brazil and Argentina.
In 2019, the EU and Mercosur concluded negotiations for an agreement that has been in the works for nearly two decades, but ratification was delayed over concerns about the Brazilian government’s commitment to protect the Amazon rainforest.
(Adds comments from Scholz, Sanchez)
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