EU sounds alarm over Russian gas
The European Union should prepare for the worst-case scenario of a complete halt in natural gas supplies from Russia, the European Commission president warned in an interview with Germany’s DPA news agency, published on Monday.
When asked about the EC’s emergency energy plan presented last week, Ursula Von Der Leyen stressed the importance of making the bloc energy-independent from Russia, insisting that it was only a matter of time before Moscow decided to completely sever gas deliveries to the EU.
“The Kremlin is not a reliable partner for Europe's energy supply. Gazprom has deliberately kept its storage levels low. In the meantime, Russia only supplies gas in part or not at all in twelve member states,” Von Der Leyen said, adding that “Europe must be prepared for the worst case scenario: a complete halt to gas supplies, sooner or later.”
The Commission chief noted that the EU aims to be completely independent from Russian gas by 2027 at the latest, and that some 300 billion euros will be invested under the REPowerEU plan, in order to save gas and accelerate “the switch to renewables.”
She went on to urge EU members that do not heavily rely on Russian gas imports to join the energy-saving effort. The EC president warned that even if these states barely receive any gas from Moscow, they could still be severely affected in case of a complete halt of Russian energy deliveries to the EU.
“It is therefore important that all member states curb demand, that all save more and share with those members who are more affected,” Von Der Leyen stated, adding that “energy solidarity is a fundamental principle of our European treaties.”
Last week, the European Commission introduced an emergency energy plan called the “Save Gas for a Safe Winter” proposal, which instructs all EU countries to lower their gas consumption by 15% by September – a limitation that is set to last until March 31, 2023. Member states are also asked to switch to renewable energy or even coal, oil and nuclear power to achieve this target, and to instruct their citizens to ration their gas usage.
The plan will be discussed by EU energy ministers on Tuesday. Von Der Leyen expressed her confidence that the scheme will be accepted by the ministers, who “understand their responsibility” to see Europe safely through the next two winters.
However, several EU states have so far resisted the plan, with Spain, Greece and Portugal, Italy, Poland and Hungary accusing the European Commission of failing to consult member states on the scheme.
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin has rejected the notion that Moscow could cut off gas supplies to the EU, stating last week that Russian energy giant Gazprom was “ready to pump as much as necessary” but that the EU had “closed everything themselves.” He previously called the bloc’s sanctions on Russia “insane and thoughtless,” and accused EU leaders of committing economic “suicide” under the orders of the US.