French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced yesterday that they will bring green hydrogen from the Iberian Peninsula to Germany and that it will be transported through the H2Med submarine tube between Barcelona and Marseille. The commitment to build “the necessary national and transnational infrastructures” to make the connection with the H2Med represents another decisive boost to the ambitious energy project proposed by Pedro Sánchez as an alternative to the Midcat gas pipeline, which was vetoed by France.
The announcement came at the end of the Franco-German summit held in Paris to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Élysée treaty, signed by President Charles de Gaulle and Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, which sealed reconciliation between the two countries after the WWII. Germany’s full involvement in the hydrogen connection was the most tangible result of a summit in which rhetorical statements abounded on both sides and tiptoeed over thorny issues such as the delivery of battle tanks to Ukraine.
The express will to extend the H2Med to Germany gives even more consistency to the initiative and rewards the perseverance of the Spanish Government, which “has been informed and consulted from the beginning” about the Franco-German dialogue on this issue, according to sources from the Moncloa.
The foreign minister highlights that the hydrogen pipeline “is an excellent project for the future”
Paris and Berlin spoke in their joint statement of taking “the necessary steps for a hydrogen transport backbone across Europe, including the necessary national and transnational hydrogen infrastructures, in particular the extension of the connection of existing and planned infrastructures.” , including the extension of the H2Med pipeline to Germany, in close collaboration with the partners involved, and to extend and reinforce the electrical network in the entire European Union”.
The purpose of Germany and France is to develop “large-scale hydrogen production”, based “on robust local production” and “necessary sustainable imports”. At the press conference, Macron explained that H2Med will be “at the heart of the hydrogen strategy” in Europe in the coming years. The French president stressed that “Germany will be a partner in this hydrogen infrastructure strategy” and that the intention is that the tube does not end in German territory and continues “through central and eastern Europe.” As he spoke these words, Scholz nodded his head. When it was his turn, the German chancellor said that his country’s interest is that hydrogen be available “at the right prices and in sufficient quantities.” That strategy, according to Scholz, will only be possible if the Europeans act together. Scholz described the H2Med as an “excellent project for the future”
The progress of the H2Med project culminates a diplomatic effort that has not been a bed of roses. The initiative proposed by Sánchez replaced the initial Midcat gas pipeline project, which Macron opposed on the grounds that it was investing in an energy, natural gas, that would soon be obsolete, for environmental reasons, as well as fear of environmental protests in the South of France. Yesterday the president recalled that he did not make sense to drill the Pyrenees and that this gas pipeline would have taken too many years to become a reality. Expanding on the energy issue and in the short term, Macron expressed the common desire to “work on the gas purchase mechanisms” and to act on “the essential reform of the electricity market.”
H2Med, the first renewable hydrogen corridor in the EU, aspires to receive European funding. A little over a month ago, it was submitted to the call for projects of common interest (PCI). The project, initially promoted by the governments of Spain, Portugal and France, includes two cross-border infrastructures, one between the Portuguese town of Celorico da Beira and Zamora, and another, underwater, between Barcelona and Marseille. The respective carriers and managers of the gas systems will participate: Enagás on the Spanish side, the Portuguese REN and GRTgaz and Terega on the French side.
The estimated cost of H2Med is 2,500 million euros, to which another 4,670 million will have to be added for the infrastructures in the Iberian Peninsula, between the connections and two saline storage cavities. The idea is that the tube to transport hydrogen will be operational in 2030.
The French president believes that the infrastructure will be able to extend to central and eastern Europe
The summit was to help overcome various serious disagreements between Paris and Berlin in recent times, both on energy (the future of nuclear energy, the cap on the price of gas) and on the military industry and defense strategy (anti-missile shield and link To united states). The two key partners of the EU commemorated the treaty signed 60 years ago with an event at the Sorbonne and then with a joint Council of Ministers. Both pledged to continue helping Ukraine for as long as it takes, though Scholz was mostly evasive about giving Kyiv the Leopard tanks. He did not expressly rule it out, but claimed that the Ukrainians are already being helped a lot and that any decision is made in consensus with the allies. “Putin’s imperialism will not win,” Scholz emphasized. Macron said “nothing is excluded” when asked about French Leclerc tanks, although he is unlikely to give them to Ukraine because France has very limited numbers, insufficient for its own defense in case of conflict.
In the commercial field, the Germans and the French defined “a common line” for an “ambitious and rapid” European response to US subsidies to their companies for the energy transition. There was no more specificity in a matter in which opinions diverge. It was an example of a summit that, except for specific issues such as H2Med, was very cosmetic and did not provide a convincing patch for a limping Franco-German engine or “a couple in therapy”, as the binational chain Arte headlined an excellent Documentary about the bilateral relationship.