MADRID — The leaders of nine Mediterranean and Southern European countries planned to meet Friday in Spain, with the energy crisis triggered by the Russian invasion of Ukraine likely to top the agenda.

The EU-Med9 meeting in the eastern port city of Alicante brings together the leaders of Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Greece, Malta, Cyprus, Slovenia and Croatia. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and EU Council President Charles Michel will also attend.

Meetings of the EU-Med group began in 2014 and are intended to develop a consensus among the participating nations on major European Union issues.

After a joint lunch, the group has two discussion sessions scheduled. The energy crisis and an EU-proposed price cap on natural gas is expected to dominate the first session. The second session is devoted to EU economic governance policies and the strengthening of relations with countries on the southern side of the Mediterranean Sea.

Migration pressures and the protection of forests and marine ecosystems may also get discussed, particularly following forest fires in and the rising sea temperatures that occurred earlier this year.

Spain’s Socialist prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, and Italy’s far-right premier, Giorgia Meloni, also planned to have their first bilateral meeting.

Sánchez scheduled a separate morning summit with the leaders of France and Portugal as well as von der Leyen to further discuss a plan for an undersea pipeline that would eventually transport hydrogen.

The pipeline, dubbed H2Med, would connect the ports of Barcelona in Spain and Marseille in France. The proposal is part of efforts to reduce Europe´s dependency on gas from Russia following the invasion of Ukraine.

No timeline or cost estimate have been announced. The governments involved hope to present the project before Dec 15 to apply for European funds that could cover up to 50% of the infrastructure costs.

The summit was to have been held in September but was postponed after Sánchez tested positive for COVID-19.

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