Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo called on the EU to “stop the bleeding” of high energy prices Wednesday as he unveiled new national measures to curb costs for consumers and conserve resources.
“In Europe, we should only have one priority,” De Croo told a press conference. “It is only at the European level that we will succeed to bring prices down.”
He added: “Only the European Union can stop the bleeding.”
Belgium is the latest EU country to introduce reforms to curb prices at the national level, and EU energy ministers are set to meet on September 9 to discuss European-level solutions. Since Russia launched the war in Ukraine, the Belgian prime minister has been a strong advocate of introducing a price cap on gas at the EU level, warning last week warned that the “next five to 10 winters will be difficult.”
De Croo’s government plans to impose windfall taxes on energy producers. While the tax would initially target the nuclear sector, a working group will look into other energy producers, but De Croo did not specify which ones. Spain, Italy, Romania and Greece have already implemented similar measures, and the idea is also gaining traction in Germany.
Belgium will also cut energy use in public buildings by, for example, requiring air conditioning use to be reduced and heating only be turned up to 19 degrees Celsius maximum. Lighting in public buildings will be switched off between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m.
The government is also holding discussions with the financial sector about potentially pausing mortgage payments for households most affected by soaring prices, and will work with employers’ federations to find solutions for businesses and small and mid-size enterprises (SMEs).
Belgium plans to extend other energy measures currently in force until the end of March 2023, such as a social tariff for low- income families; a 6 percent VAT on electricity, gas and heat; as well as reducing the excise tax on petrol and diesel.
“I will remain in contact with the European Commission so that these measures can be taken,” De Croo said. “Europe must show that it is capable of protecting its citizens, of protecting its companies.”