The leaders of Germany and Spain plan to raise pressure on French President Emmanuel Macron to drop resistance to a natural gas pipeline they see as key to reducing European dependence on Russian energy supplies.

The proposed link, which would also enable hydrogen to flow from Spain to France via the Pyrenees mountains, will be at the top of the agenda when Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez meet at a bilateral forum later on Wednesday.

“We will both continue to lobby for a higher interconnection capacity of the Iberian Peninsula in order to enhance its contribution to the security of supply to the whole of the EU,” the leaders said in a draft joint action plan emailed by the German government. They called the MidCat pipeline of “paramount importance.”

Berlin wants to tap Spain’s vast power infrastructure to help Europe’s biggest economy weather future winters without Russian gas. Germany has historically relied on Russia for about one-third of gas imports and has suffered as President Vladimir Putin turned off the taps to pressure European nations who oppose his war in Ukraine.

French Opposition

Scholz and Sanchez want the pipeline to be ready to use by 2025 to help shore up the European Union’s internal energy market, boost access to cleaner fuels and increase autonomy. Spain holds one-third of the continent’s regasification capacity and has vowed to increase exports to countries in central Europe.

Macron has repeatedly dismissed the project, which was already abandoned in 2019, arguing that it isn’t needed and that it would likely get bogged down in legal challenges over its environmental impact. France generates most of its power from nuclear reactors, although it has been hampered by maintenance issues that have led to shutdowns.

Sanchez has said his government could seek to build an underwater pipeline connecting Barcelona and Italy’s Livorno through the Mediterranean, which is a more expensive option that could take years to build. Germany is also exploring other alternatives to bypass France.

The EU on Wednesday backed a new package of sanctions on Moscow, including a price cap on oil sales, as the shutoff of Russian gas to most of Europe threatens to plunge the continent into recession this winter.

Spain and Germany also aim to strengthen defense ties, according to the draft plan. However, Sanchez’s office has denied reports the German government invited Madrid to join the European Skyshield air-defense project.

Scholz and Sanchez will also discuss speeding up the ratification of free-trade agreements with New Zealand, Chile, Mexico and Mercosur, a South American bloc including Brazil and Argentina, at the forum in the northern Spanish city of A Coruna.

In 2019, the EU and Mercosur concluded negotiations for an agreement that has been in the works for nearly two decades, but ratification was delayed over concerns about the Brazilian government’s commitment to protect the Amazon rainforest.