France nixes Midcat proposal: press
French finance minister Bruno Le Maire has poured cold water over the prospect of a new gas pipeline to Spain to boost Iberian gas flows to northern European markets, Bloomberg reported September 4.
Paris and Madrid in 2019 withheld regulatory consent for the MidCat pipeline, which would connect Spain and France via the Pyrenees, with the original proposal extending out to northern Africa.
Following Moscow's actions in Ukraine and the fallout of Gazprom's Nord Stream curtailments, Portugal, Spain and Germany have suggested reviving MidCat could strengthen northern European energy security in the longer term.
Le Maire dismissed the idea during a press conference in Italy September 3. The minister stressed he thought Midcat would do little to avoid Europe's immediate energy challenge.
"I'm not sure that a new pipeline would help us go through the winter," Le Maire said. "Before thinking over the long-term approach and the long-term investments, please let us focus on the very short-term challenges that we will have to face for the next winter.
Le Maire's comments were backed by French president Emmanuel Macron, who told Reuters September 5 that two existing Spanish links to France were underutilised, with gas flows currently being pumped in the direction of the Iberian peninsular. European Commission sources also dismissed the MidCat idea, telling Bloomberg on September 1 that a technical assessment had went against the project, though commission chief Ursula von Leyen has previously expressed support.
Thierry Bros, a regular NGW contributor and professor at Science Po Paris, told EurActiv in August that MidCat's merits are debatable given the route would link Figueres in Catalonia to the commune of Barbaira in Occitania, and both towns already possess connections to nearby gas terminals. The EU's assessment also indicated it would take seven years to complete Midcat, putting the project at odds with Brussels' official backing for more renewables and carbon-free gases like hydrogen in the medium term.