Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez speaks with the media as he arrives for an EU summit at the EU Council building in Brussels, Thursday, Oct. 20, 2022. European Union leaders were heading into a two-day summit Thursday with opposing views on whether, and how, the bloc could impose a gas price cap to contain the energy crisis fueled by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and his strategy to choke off gas supplies to the bloc at will. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys)

MADRID (AP) — The leaders of France, Portugal and Spain said Thursday they have agreed to substitute a proposed gas pipeline connection between Iberia and France with an undersea “green energy corridor” that would eventually transport hydrogen.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said the plan was to connect Iberia to France and the European energy market by means of a pipeline from Barcelona in Spain across the Mediterranean Sea to Marseille in France. He said it could be used to transport natural gas temporarily, before it starts carrying hydrogen.

Sánchez made the announcement after the leaders of the three countries met in Brussels where they are attending an European Union summit.

No timeline or cost estimate were announced.

Speaking upon his arrival at the European Council headquarters, French President Emmanuel Macron said the scheme was aimed at opening up the Iberian Peninsula by developing a “green energy corridor between Portugal-Spain and France, and through France the rest of Europe.”

He said the three countries will work on intensifying their electrical interconnections. Macron said the project could also add electricity interconnections.

In a joint statement, the leaders said the maritime pipeline, dubbed BarMar, was the most direct and efficient option to connect the Iberian Peninsula to Central Europe.

The three also agreed to conclude the renewable gas interconnections between Portugal and Spain, from the northern Iberian cities of Celourico da Beira to Zamora.

They expressed support to finalize an electricity connection through the Bay of Biscay between France and Spain and work on new electricity interconnection projects so as to achieve a more electrically-connected Europe.

Spain and Portugal had been pushing for the Midcat natural gas pipeline connection across the Pyrenees mountains with promises that it would be used for green hydrogen in the future. But France opposed that plan saying it was too costly, would take too long to build and was not the solution to Europe’s energy problems.

With the war in Ukraine, Spain and Portugal had hoped the Midcat gas connections could be used to help EU countries struggling to wean the bloc off its reliance on Russian gas. The proposal was backed by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Spain’s Energy Minister Teresa Ribera tweeted Thursay that “the agreement for a green energy corridor Barcelona-Marseille is a magnificent decision which strengthens solidarity and commitment to renewables.”

Sánchez and Macron said the three leaders would meet again Dec. 8, 9 in Alicante, Spain to finalize the project, which will be entitled to European funding.

____

Associated Press reporters Samuel Petrequin in Brussels and Barry Hatton in Lisbon, Portugal, contributed to this story.

Ciarán Giles, The Associated Press


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