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France opens door to talks with Spain on building gas pipeline

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France is willing to resume talks with Spain about building a gas pipeline connecting the two countries as Europe races to reduce its dependence on Russian gas, according to Bloomberg. 

France, which has long resisted Spanish calls to build the link, is now willing to discuss the viability of the so-called Midcat pipeline if Madrid officially requests it, said Jean-Michel Casa, French ambassador in Madrid. Spain has about a quarter of Europe’s regasification capacity.

“Now that the underlying situation has changed, is it necessary to talk about Midcat? Let’s talk,” Casa said in an interview with Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez could take the opportunity to discuss the project with President Emmanuel Macron in an upcoming visit to Paris, Casa said.

In 2019, energy regulators from both countries rejected the investment proposal for the central section of the Midcat line crossing through the Pyrenees, disappointing leaders in Spain and Portugal that for years had pushed for the project to bolster energy links with the rest of Europe. The Iberian peninsula has only marginal gas connections to the rest of Europe. 

The energy crisis unleashed by the war in Ukraine has put the pipeline back in focus. The pipeline could help substitute Russian gas by allowing Algerian gas to flow into Europe as well bolstering liquefied natural gas imports through Spain.

Spain’s Environmental Transition Minister Teresa Ribera, who oversees energy, told Bloomberg that if a pipeline is built it shouldn’t be financed by Spanish taxpayers, who already pay for energy security. She also said that a pipeline should be built with a long-term view that would allow other types of fuels, such as hydrogen, to flow in the future.