Good morning. EU foreign affairs ministers assemble in Luxembourg today with a daunting list of global crises, from the spiralling conflict in Sudan (from where EU diplomats are being evacuated) and the deteriorating situation across the Mediterranean in Tunisia, to the war in Ukraine.
Today, Laura reports on a new power link connecting Europe and the UK, while our Rome correspondent explains why Italy’s government isn’t too upset that Brussels won’t pay for sports stadiums.
As the leaders and ministers of nine northern European countries meet in Belgium’s Ostend to talk wind power today, the UK and the Netherlands will announce a new electricity link as part of efforts to boost green energy, writes Laura Dubois.
Context: European countries want to accelerate the rollout of green energy following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, and Moscow cutting off most of its gas supplies to Europe. At a previous wind power summit last year, four countries pledged to produce 65 gigawatt of offshore wind power by 2030 and 150 gigawatt by 2050.
The second edition of the summit will focus on how to increase wind power capacity, Belgian premier Alexander De Croo told journalists last week. “This is not a commitment summit. It’s an action summit,” De Croo said.
Part of that is the new interconnector. The undersea cable dubbed “Lion Link” is to connect the UK and the Netherlands to a Dutch wind farm from the early 2030s onwards and will carry 1.8 gigawatts of energy, according to statements by the two governments.
The planned investment for the connector is €1bn, a person familiar with the talks said.
“This new connection further boosts energy security and energy independence in Europe,” said Dutch energy minister Rob Jetten. It would supply electricity “enough to power 2mn households,” he added.
“We are bolstering our energy security and sending a strong signal to Putin’s Russia that the days of his dominance over global power markets are well and truly over,” said UK energy security secretary Grant Shapps.
The UK already has eight interconnectors with European countries, including the Netherlands, with six more approved by UK regulator Ofgem to be built over the next two years.
Aside from the Netherlands, Belgium and the UK, the summit will be attended by leaders and ministers from Ireland, Germany, Denmark, Luxembourg, France and Norway as well as the EU Commission.
As more countries are taking part than last year, the pledges will rise to 120 gigawatts in 2030 and a minimum of 300 gigawatts in 2050, according to a document seen by the FT.
Representatives from the offshore renewable industry, meanwhile, called for additional investments by governments and the EU to reach the targets.
“Our industry is not large enough today to deliver the nine governments’ commitments and meet the rising demand for renewable electricity and renewable hydrogen,” some 100 companies and organisations wrote in a joint declaration.
Chart du jour: No rain in Spain
A severe drought last year ruined olive oil crops across Europe. Prices in Spain, which typically produces half the world’s olive oil, have surged almost 60 per cent since June.
Brussels has rejected Italy’s plans to use €148mn from the EU Covid recovery fund for two large stadium projects, as it steps up its scrutiny over Rome’s intended spending of its €200bn share of the money, writes Amy Kazmin.
Context: Italy is the single biggest recipient of the EU’s €800bn Covid recovery fund. The money is intended to reboot the country’s chronically underperforming economy and set it on a higher long-term growth trajectory.
But Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s government, which took office in October after the spending plans were finalised, has questioned the merit of some projects to be financed under the scheme.
Florence wanted to use €55mn from funds allocated to urban regeneration to help overhaul the century-old Artemio Franchi stadium, which seats 40,000 and is the home ground of the ACF Fiorentina football team.
The team’s owner had offered to build a completely new state of the art facility at his own expense, but relatives of the stadium’s original architect campaigned successfully to have it declared a cultural landmark, preventing its demolition.
Separately, Venice planned to use €93mn in EU funds for a new sports complex with an indoor arena for the local basketball team.
Over the weekend, Meloni’s government said Brussels had finally ruled the projects were “ineligible” for Covid recovery fund money.
Rome says the commission’s decision will now pave the way for Brussels to release the next tranche of Italy’s funds, around €19bn, in the coming days.
The commission said work was continuing regarding the assessment of Italy’s payment request and it was in close contact with authorities.
What to watch today
EU foreign ministers meet in Luxembourg.
Leaders and ministers of nine countries meet for North Sea Summit in Ostend.