Spain: the government has its energy savings plan validated by deputies
Spain’s left-wing government managed on Thursday to get parliamentarians to approve the energy-saving measures it had taken earlier this month as part of a European plan to reduce imports of Russian gas, including limitation of air conditioning.
Although the executive of the socialist Pedro Sánchez does not have an absolute majority in the Chamber of Deputies, these controversial measures were voted by a large majority, by 187 votes against 161 (those of the right-wing parties) and one abstention.
A rejection of this decree-law by the deputies would have been a scathing setback for Mr. Sánchez, in particular vis-à-vis the European Commission, whose president, Ursula von der Leyen, had given strong support to the decision of Madrid to limit the use of air conditioning.
Above all, it would have resulted in the immediate withdrawal of these measures, which, for the most part, came into force on August 10.
The period that Europe is currently going through requires responsibility and solidarity”, Transport Minister Raquel Sánchez told the press after the vote. ” This is what the Spanish government is doing”.
The main measures relate to limiting air conditioning to 27°C in commercial spaces, cultural establishments (cinemas, theatres) and transport infrastructure, such as airports or train stations. Similarly, these places will have to limit heating to a maximum of 19°C this winter.
The text also stipulates that the lights in shop windows and the lighting in public buildings must be turned off from 10 p.m.
In addition, air-conditioned or heated premises will be required to install by September 30 a mechanism ensuring the automatic closing of their doors in order to avoid energy waste.
At this stage, no measure applies to private individuals in the context of their daily life.
At the end of July, EU countries pledged to everything (their) possible » to reduce their gas consumption by at least 15% between August 2022 and March 2023 compared to the average of the last five years over the same period.
« Iberian exception »
The objective is to reduce as much as possible and as quickly as possible European dependence on Russian gas, which has been dramatically demonstrated since the start of the war in Ukraine.
Highlighting their lower level of energy connection with the rest of the continent, Spain and Portugal had obtained from Brussels that their objective be a drop of only 7% in the name of “the Iberian exception”.
Unlike other EU countries like Germany, Russian gas is a relatively small part of Spain’s needs, but Mr Sánchez aims to raise Madrid’s profile within the EU. the EU by leading by example. Especially since Spain will preside over the EU in the second half of next year.
The measures validated by Parliament on Thursday are the first part of a larger plan ” energy emergency” which the government is due to present shortly.
The People’s Party (PP, conservative), the main opposition party, justified its decision to vote “no” by accusing the government of having decided on these measures without consultation and of having opted for coercive measures instead of simple recommendations. .
But the government managed to convince several small nationalist parties to support this package of measures, in particular by agreeing to resubmit this text to Parliament as a bill, which will allow the parties to introduce amendments, while the decree-law could not be changed.
In addition, the government has resorted to a tried and tested parliamentary technique known as the “omnibus”, which consists of grouping together measures that have nothing to do with each other, in order to make the rejection of the whole text politically costly.
Energy-saving measures thus constituted only a very small part of the decree-law, the major part being devoted to social aid for the transport sector, with in particular free subscriptions for users of certain public transport (trains suburbs for example), but also scholarships for students.
Ms. Sánchez said that 400,000 people had already registered on her ministry’s website to benefit from these free tickets.
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