October 26, 2021

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EU summit on high energy prices, as in Italy: 'I hold my breath'

EU summit on high energy prices, as in Italy: ‘I hold my breath’

from Gas price hike lead to More and more problems. In the European Union, an increasing number of families are no longer able to pay their energy bills. Tonight, European heads of government are meeting in Slovenia to discuss possible solutions.

Italy is one of the countries where it is a really big problem. Before the Corona crisis, nearly 10 per cent of households lived in so-called “energy poverty”. This number has only increased.

Take for example Susanna Makani, a single mother from Brescia in northern Italy. “This is the gas bill for December and January 2018: 301 euros,” it appears in a thick file she keeps in her wardrobe. And this last winter: 527 euros.

“I carry my heart”

Gas and electricity prices have already skyrocketed in recent years, but this fall it will be faster. In Italy, the price of electricity increased by 30 percent and the price of gas by 14 percent. “I haven’t gotten my bill for this month yet, but I’m holding my breath,” says McGagney.

This isn’t the first time Maccagni has cared about money. After her divorce, her partner’s income disappeared and she had to make ends meet on her own. She found a job in the school cafeteria, where she was earning about $1,000 a month. “That’s why I was able to pay in installments.”

But she lost that job during the Corona crisis. And she has her sights set: “I’ll be able to pay the bills. I always succeed.” “I just don’t know how yet.”

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More poverty after Corona

Because of the pandemic, many people in this area have ended up in the same situation, says social worker Ana Atoliko. Her organization helps 100 families pay bills and other problems.

“There are many stories that preceded energy poverty,” she says. “If you have to choose between paying the bill and going to the dentist, you will quickly stop going to the dentist. These everyday choices are what keep many families from getting away with it.”

Maccagni recognizes him. “I will fill in the holes, but there is no money for expensive things.” Home heating has always been a success so far. “It made us two degrees cooler at night than during the day, never more than 19.” She hopes to survive this winter, too.

European cooperation

To prevent energy price hikes from fully transitioning to consumers, Italian Prime Minister Draghi recently announced a €3 billion package of measures. Countries such as the Netherlands, Spain and France have also announced measures. However, pressure on the European Union to find a common solution is growing.

Spain suggested this week that the European Union buy gas jointly in order to keep the price low. The committee is also studying a solution for poor families. For example, European Commissioner Frans Timmermans wants European money to go to families who can no longer pay the bills, in order to more equitably distribute the costs of the climate approach.

The committee’s main fear is that – if energy bills continue to rise – support for European climate measures will fall. Fossil fuels will become increasingly costly in the coming years, and the yellow vest demonstrations across Europe are still fresh in the minds of many government leaders.

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I prefer to rely on my strength

Susanna doesn’t know where I am if she’s going to take to the streets. “If it’s a peaceful protest, then yes. I know a lot of people in this situation who are ashamed. It’s better to show that we’re here.” She does not envision organizing such a protest on her own. “I already have a thousand things on my mind, I can’t really handle that.”

McAgne expects nothing from the Italian government, or even the European Union. “If help comes, it definitely makes my situation easier. But I tell everyone I’m looking for a job, and I’m sure something will come. I’d rather rely on my own strength rather than government actions.”