France Defence Council meet to devise 'roadmap' for energy crisis

·2-min read

As Europe rushes to overhaul its power market in the face of winter shortages, France has made the issue a matter of national security – with President Emmanuel Macron ordering a "Defence Council” aimed at shielding France from a worsening energy crisis.

"We cannot talk about gas and the energy crisis without talking about Russia and the war in Ukraine,” government spokesman Olivier Véran told France Info on Tuesday.

Bound by secrecy

The first "Energy Defence Council" will take place behind closed doors on Friday at the Elysée Palace, with participants bound by “defence secrecy”, according to the Elysée’s own website.

The news has been met with disdain by opposition figures who say the council’s lack of transparency – and the fact it’s been convened while parliament is still on recess – makes it a direct threat to French democracy.

"If a minister is questioned in parliament about the decisions taken in the Defence Council, they are legally allowed to not answer," Adrien Quatennens, coordinator of the leftwing France Unbowed party, told Libération.

While initially concerned with military and intelligence issues, the council has had its remit widened by decree to provide for responses to national threats including terrorism and the Covid crisis.

Véran, who participated in weekly pandemic-related Defence Council meetings as health minister, urged the French not to view the gatherings as “a secret forum”, arguing they were “collegial” and “collective” and very much in the national interest.

Meanwhile an adviser to the Elysée told AFP: "Given the supply of gas and electricity is vital to the country, the aim of the Defence Council will be to take stock of the situation and prepare for all possible scenarios this autumn and winter."

On Monday Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne told French companies to get “energy sober”, warning that businesses – not households – would be the first affected by electricity rationing ahead of the winter.