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5 Jul, 2022 08:56

German party chief predicts EU infighting over gas

The CDU’s Friedrich Merz drew a parallel between looming gas shortages and the EU refugee crisis
German party chief predicts EU infighting over gas

European Union members could end up in disagreements over the distribution of gas, amid looming shortages, the leader of Germany’s Christian Democratic Union party (CDU) said on Monday.

Friedrich Merz argued that the German government should unveil “a concrete” set of policies in coordination with the EU, after formally triggering the “alarm stage” of its emergency gas plan two weeks ago.

“For example, there will probably be significant conflicts over distribution within the EU, as it happened in 2015 and 2016 with the refugee crisis,” Merz told the Neue Osnabrucker Zeitung newspaper, referring to the influx of asylum seekers from the Middle East and Africa to Europe.

Merz warned against making calls for an immediate end to Russian gas supplies. “We should not create such scenarios through public statements. If Russia sticks to the [existing] contract, the deliveries will resume after maintenance work,” he said.

Russian giant Gazprom reduced gas flow via the Nord Stream 1 Baltic Sea pipeline last month, citing planned repairs and the impact of sanctions.

Merz’s statement comes as the German Federal Network Agency, a state gas and electricity regulator, said that the country cannot rely for long on available gas reserves.

“If we run out of Russian gas and have an averagely warm winter, the volumes that are in storage at the moment, including the gas we must pass on to other European countries, will maybe last for one to two months,” the agency’s chief, Klaus Muller, told Funke Mediengruppe.

In March, the EU launched a plan to phase out Russian gas by 2030 in response to Moscow’s military campaign in Ukraine.

German officials and business leaders, meanwhile, have been warning that the country’s economy, which heavily relies on Russian energy supplies, would suffer if the flow of gas from Russia gets cut off immediately.

“It is a real emergency. Entire industries are in danger of collapsing permanently because of the gas bottlenecks: aluminum, glass, the chemical industry,” Yasmin Fahimi, the head of the German Federation of Trade Unions, told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper. Economy Minister Robert Habeck previously warned that gas shortages would spark mass unemployment and bring down living standards.