Energy proposals could be 'democratic problem', as MEPs react to von der Leyen speech

·2-min read

The legal basis for the European Commission's proposal to recover €140 billionfrom energy companies' excess revenues could be seen as a "democratic problem", according to one of the Parliament's top lawmakers.

German MEP and European People's Party president, Manfred Weber, was speaking after European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen's annual State of the Union speech where she laid out plans to help mitigate the energy crisis.

Many MEPs were in agreement with her proposal, but it was Weber, who hails from the same country and political party where the biggest disagreement was found.

"You have our full support on the content [of the windfall tax], but on the procedure I have to say, we have to respect the European Parliament as the people's chamber. Can you imagine a windfall tax and a price cap being decided on a national level without a vote in the national parliament. We would call this a democratic problem," Weber told the Commission president on Wednesday.

"But now, we have proposals on the table which are doing this in Europe and that should not be the new normal at a European level.

"Please consider again the legal basis for the proposals on the table. The EPP stands for a democratic Europe and that means a Europe where all legislation is voted on in this chamber."

When it came to the issues of solidarity with Ukraine, however, nearly all lawmakers in Strasbourg were united, many agreeing with von der Leyen that sanctions against Russia must be kept up.

"We are at war against the Putin regime and we cannot fail, so we need to have the right policy response in place," Pascal Canfin, a French MEP who comes from president Emmanuel Macron's political group told Euronews.

"It would be completely absurd to change our direction when we see concretely on the ground the very first results and the starting of the failure of strategy from Putin. So, let's keep on track because it's not only about prices and euros, it's also about democracy."

On rule of law though, not every MEP was in agreement.

Despite von der Leyen addressing rule of law concerns within the EU in her speech, Ernest Urtasun, a Spanish Green MEP, took issue with the substance of what she said.

"There's one point that was missing, which is the rule of law. I think rule of law within the EU and how to tackle what is going on in countries, such as Hungary and Poland - this is the big absence of the speech of Madam von der Leyen," Urtasun told Euronews.

"And we would have expected stronger wording on the defence of fundamental rights because of what is going on, for instance, the new proposal restricting abortion rights in Hungary worries us extremely."