EU leaders bickered on Friday (Mar 25) over steps to ease the energy market crunch exacerbated by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, but managed to present a united front amid mounting concern over the impact on hard-hit consumers of soaring gas and oil prices.
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An intense debate on whether to cap energy prices, which pitted some of the European Union's southern countries against Germany and the Netherlands, spun the second day of an EU summit well into the evening and ended with a trade-off deal.
At one point Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez left the summit meeting room for "a technical stop, so that the negotiations could get back on track," a Spanish official said.
The war in Ukraine has pushed energy prices to fresh record highs and prompted the European Union to pledge to cut Russian gas use by two-thirds this year, by hiking imports from other countries and boosting renewable energy.
While the Mediterranean rim states pressed for a cap on gas prices to shield poorer households, opponents say this effectively uses public cash to subsidise fossil fuel generation.
Sanchez said after the summit that Spain and Portugal would be allowed to implement temporary measures to cut energy prices.