Brussels and Berlin traded barbs on Thursday amid a bitter row over EU competition rules allegedly scuppering reforms to Germany’s prized renewable energy programme.
In an unusually pointed public statement, Brussels hit back at Sigmar Gabriel, the German vice-chancellor, for accusing the competition watchdog of trying to hold Germany “hostage” with unjustified and arbitrary demands.
The dispute relates to the billions of euros of German public subsidies deployed to promote the energiewende shift to renewables while at the same time shielding heavy industry from the costs. Brussels raised questions over the system being discriminatory and penalising consumers in order to help big industry….
Joaquín Almunia, the EU competition chief, contradicted Mr Gabriel’s claim that one outstanding issue – forcing Germany to treat imported energy on the same terms as domestic producers – was never before raised in six months of talks.
In a statement issued on Thursday, Mr Almunia argued the discrimination was potentially illegal, a risk that had been “made clear to the German authorities back in December 2013”.