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Portugal PM calls on France to back MidCat gas pipeline across the Pyrenees

·1-min read
FILE PHOTO: NATO summit in Madrid

By Sergio Goncalves

LISBON (Reuters) - Portugal's Prime Minister Antonio Costa has urged France to stop blocking the proposed MidCat gas pipeline across the Pyrenees noting it would help central and eastern Europe wean themselves off of Russian gas.

Spain and Portugal have seven liquefied natural gas terminals that could supply central Europe via additional pipelines such as the proposed Spain-to-France Midcat pipeline.

"I hope that France understands that it is no longer possible to block this project. I hope it happens as soon as possible," Costa told TVI and CNN Portugal late on Monday.

French President Emmanuel Macron said last week he opposed the MidCat project, arguing that two existing pipelines across the Pyrenees which divide the Iberian Peninsula from France are under-utilised with flows going mainly toward Spain.

Costa said he understood France position as it seeks to protect its nuclear energy industry, but central and eastern European countries urgently need to diversify their energy sources.

"Today, with the energy crisis in Europe, there cannot be this competition between types of energy," he said.

First launched in 2013, the MidCat project was suspended in 2019 for environmental and economic viability reasons.

However, Spain, Portugal and more recently Germany have argued that the energy crisis has changed matters and shown that the pipeline is needed.

According to Costa, the European Commission has identified a subsea pipeline between Spain and Italy as an alternative to MidCat if France continues to block the project.

That project is likely to be more costly and take longer to build, Spanish officials argue.

(Reporting by Sergio Goncalves; editing by Andrei Khalip and Jason Neely)