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Qatar emir visits Spain as EU eyes gas alternatives

Qatar's emir began a state visit to Spain on Tuesday as Europe seeks to diversify its natural gas supply sources to reduce its energy dependence on Russia.

Qatar emir visits Spain as EU eyes gas alternatives
Spain's King Felipe VI (2nd-R), Spain's Queen Letizia (R) Emir of Qatar Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani (2nd-L) and his spouse Jawaher bint Hamad bin Suhaim Al-Thani (L) take part in an official reception ceremony in Madrid, on May 17, 2022. (Photo by Pierre-Philippe MARCOU / AFP)

Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani was welcomed by King Felipe VI at Madrid’s royal palace at the start of his two-day visit, his first to Spain since he ascended the throne in 2013.

The emir, who is accompanied by Qatar’s foreign and energy ministers, is scheduled to hold talks with Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez on Wednesday.

Spain and Qatar are expected to sign a dozen economic and commercial contracts during his visit, mainly regarding energy, according to a Spanish government source.

The visit comes as the European Union is aiming to cut its reliance on Russian gas by two-thirds this year due to Russia’s invasion of  Ukraine.

Russia currently supplies around 40 percent of Europe’s gas needs.

Qatar, which has the third-largest natural gas reserves in the world, is currently Spain’s fifth-biggest supplier of natural gas after the United States, Algeria, Nigeria and Egypt.

The country accounted for 4.4 percent of Spain’s total gas imports in April and the Spanish government hopes this share could increase.

“We are working closely with out European counterparts” on the long-term supply of liquefied natural gas (LNG), Qatar’s ambassador to Spain, Abdullah Al-Hamar, told Spanish daily 20 Minutos.

The emir of Qatar’s trip to Europe will also include visits to Germany, Britain, Slovenia and Switzerland, where he will attend the World Economic Forum which will run in the mountain resort of Davos from May 22nd-26th.

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ELECTRICITY

Spain to cut electricity tax by half to ease inflation pain

Spain will cut the value-added tax on electricity from 10 percent to five percent to shield consumers from soaring inflation fuelled by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said Wednesday.

Spain to cut electricity tax by half to ease inflation pain

The announcement comes after Sánchez’s Socialists were thrashed Sunday in a regional election in Andalusia, a longtime party stronghold.

Sánchez told parliament the VAT reduction, from 10 percent to five percent, would be approved at an extraordinary cabinet meeting on Saturday “to continue to protect citizens from the effects of the war.”

His government last year slashed the VAT rate on electricity to 10 percent from 21 percent to ease the impact of electricity price rises on consumers.

The latest tax cut will be part of a package of measures which will be adopted on Saturday to help consumers deal with rising inflation, which hit 8.7 percent in May, its highest level in decades.

The government did not provide further details on what measures will be adopted.

It adopted a first multi-billion euro emergency package to cushion businesses and consumers from soaring energy prices in March.

Labour Minister Yolanda Díaz has proposed slashing the price of monthly public transit passes by 50 percent and offering €300 ($315) to people hit hardest by rising prices.

READ MORE: Spain eyes €300 handouts for most vulnerable and further fuel reductions

“Inflation is hitting families hard. … The government has acted quickly and decisively, but it is still not enough,” she tweeted.

Spain’s main opposition conservative Popular Party won Sunday’s election in Andalusia in a landslide, capturing 58 seats in the 109-seat regional parliament, its first ever absolute majority in the southern region.

The Socialists won just 30 seats, its worst ever result in Spain’s most populous region.

 
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