EU energy ministers failed to agree on a cap on natural gas prices. A new emergency meeting is scheduled for mid-December.

Kenzo Tribouillard | Af | Getty’s image

BRUSSELS — European energy ministers fail to reach a compromise on a cap on natural gas prices after “heated”, “ugly” and “harsh” discussions.

The EU’s 27 leaders agreed in late October to give their political support to cap natural gas prices after months of discussions about how best to tackle the current energy crisis.

The European Commission, the EU executive body and the bloc’s energy minister were then tasked with resolving their more specific and practical differences regarding the measure.

However, the divergence was so acute in Brussels this week that energy ministers were unable to find a compromise and instead convened a new emergency meeting in mid-December.

“The tensions are touchable,” an EU official, who followed the discussions but chose to remain anonymous because of the sensitive nature of the talks, told CNBC by telephone. The same official said the conversations were “very difficult” due to “false price caps”.

In an effort to get everyone involved, the European Commission proposed a cap at 275 euros per megawatt hour. The limit will also only apply when the price is 58 euros ($60.46) higher than the global LNG (liquefied natural gas) reference price for 10 consecutive trading days in a two-week period.

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Countries wishing to implement the cap, notably Poland, Spain and Greece, say this proposal is unrealistic because it is too high to make it unlikely to be triggered.

“The gas price cap contained in the current document does not satisfy any country. It is a kind of joke to us,” said Anna Moscow, Poland’s climate minister, in Brussels on Thursday.

Another EU official, speaking to CNBC on condition of anonymity, mentioned how the conversation had “heated up”. One of them went so far as to say that “at one point, it got really ugly.”

It reflects how poorer and more indebted EU countries feel about the energy crisis impacting the region since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February. With less fiscal space to support domestic consumers, these countries need EU-wide measures to contain energy costs at home.

“I hope we get there next week,” another official told CNBC on condition of anonymity after the meeting.

Speaking at Thursday’s press conference, Jozef Sikela, Czech minister for industry and commerce, also said: “We haven’t opened the Champagne, but put the bottle in the fridge.”

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Energy ministers are expected to meet again on December 13, just before heads of state meet in Brussels for their final European Union summit of the year. Until then, the commission’s proposal will likely undergo changes in hopes of bringing everyone onboard.

Prices on next month’s European benchmark Title Transfer Facility (TTF) closed at around 129 euros per megawatt hour on Thursday. They have reached historic peaks in August with almost 250 euros per megawatt hour.