Site logo

EU struggles with how to cut off reliance on Russian gas

European Union nations struggled on Monday to find common ground on how to wean the bloc off its reliance on Russian natural gas, seeking to appease wary consumers at home while upholding unity as Moscow turns down the tap.

On the eve of an emergency meeting to discuss plans to cut gas use by 15 per cent over the coming months, envoys were still brokering a possible compromise that should keep all 27 nations in line by Tuesday night.

“This is still a work in progress,” said a senior diplomat, who asked not to be identified because the talks were still ongoing.

The bloc is bracing for a possible full Russian cut-off of natural gas supplies that could add a big chill to the upcoming winter, leaving nations like economic juggernaut Germany especially exposed. Some other countries, with little dependence on Russian gas, do not want to force such a major cut on their people.

Russia has cut off or reduced gas to a dozen EU countries, and on Monday said it will slash flows this week through a major pipeline to Germany by another half, to 20 per cent of capacity. The Nord Stream 1 pipeline reductions further endanger goals to fill storage for winter as envoys haggled over EU plans.

The Russian state-owned company Gazprom tweeted that it would reduce “the daily throughput” of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Germany to 33 million cubic metres as of Wednesday, saying it was shutting down a turbine for repairs. The head of Germany’s network regulator, Klaus Mueller, confirmed that the flow was expected to be cut in half.

Deliveries were at 40 per cent of capacity after Nord Stream 1 reopened last week, after 10 days of scheduled maintenance. The German government said it rejected the notion that technical reasons would lead to further gas reductions.

“We are monitoring the situation very closely in close exchange with the federal network agency and the gas crisis team,” the German economy ministry said in a statement after Gazprom’s announcement. “According to our information, there is no technical reason for a reduction in deliveries.”

The EU senior diplomat said ambassadors had been working non-stop on the divisive issue and had sought to clip the powers of the executive European Commission, which, under its plan, could sidestep member countries to impose such reductions of gas usage.

“First and utmost” was the need to put members in charge of deciding when such cuts should become mandatory, the diplomat said, in case Russian President Vladimir Putin weaponises gas exports to pressure the bloc into reducing its sanctions over the war in Ukraine or push other political aims.

Yielding some of their powers over energy policy to Brussels has long been anathema in some national capitals.

Spain and Portugal have already said making mandatory reductions are a non-starter. They noted that they use very little Russian gas, compared with countries such as Germany and Italy, and that there are scant energy connections linking them to the rest of Europe.

A one-size-fits-all solution seemed off the table on Monday as envoys were looking at derogations for island nations that are not connected to other networks, for Baltic nations that have close links with the Russian electricity grid, or nations whose industries depend heavily on them.

Reducing gas use by 15 per cent between August and next March will not come easy. The European Commission signalled its proposed target would require EU countries as a whole to triple the cuts they achieved since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.

Yet, there is a fear of displaying a lack of solidarity, with the rest of the world — especially Russia — looking on.

“The world is watching very closely,” the diplomat said.

During the war, the EU has approved bans on Russian coal and most oil to take effect later this year, but it did not include natural gas because the bloc depends on gas to power factories, generate electricity and heat homes. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is convinced Putin will cut off gas anyway to try to wreak economic and political havoc in Europe this winter.

The aim of the commission’s proposals is to ensure, in case of a Russian cut-off, that essential industries and services like hospitals can function, while others would have to cut back. That could include lowering heat in public buildings and enticing families to use less energy at home.


Read More


  • No comments yet.
  • Add a comment