VAccording to information from the German Press Agency, representatives of EU countries have agreed on an emergency plan to reduce gas consumption. It is to be officially confirmed this Tuesday at a special meeting of energy ministers in Brussels and reduce the risks that could arise from a complete disruption of Russian gas supplies.
As diplomats from the German Press Agency confirmed on Tuesday night, the plan, as proposed by the EU Commission, envisages a voluntary reduction in national consumption by 15 percent from August 1, 2022 to March 31, 2023. In addition, the possibility should be created to trigger a Union alarm in the event of far-reaching supply bottlenecks and to set binding savings targets.
Exceptions for Cyprus, Malta and Ireland
Compared to the Commission’s first draft, however, there are significantly more possible exceptions and the hurdles for the introduction of binding savings targets have also been increased. The latter should only be able to be enforced by the Council of Member States and not by the EU Commission. In concrete terms, this means that a Commission proposal for binding savings targets needs the approval of a group of 15 of the 27 EU countries. In addition, these must together make up at least 65 percent of the total population of the Union.
Derogations should provide, for example, that countries such as Cyprus, Malta and Ireland should not be obliged to save gas as long as they are not directly connected to the gas network of another member state. In other countries, for example, efforts to store gas, an impending electricity crisis and the consumption of gas as a raw material for the production of fertilizers, for example, should be able to reduce the mandatory savings.
The decision-making process for the revised plan is expected to begin this Tuesday at a special meeting of energy ministers. This also requires a qualified majority, which according to diplomats should, however, be achieved without any problems.
The deliberations of the permanent representatives of the member states have shown that the majority of the countries consider solidarity to be extremely important and want to save gas, it said. In addition to Hungary, only three other member states have recently expressed major reservations.
Germany supports the emergency plans as one of the countries that are currently still heavily dependent on Russian gas supplies. Economics Minister Robert Habeck is expected to attend the special meeting on behalf of the federal government. The Greens politician accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of a “perfidious game” on Monday evening because of the announced further reduction in gas supplies. Putin is trying to weaken the great support for Ukraine and to drive a wedge in German society. In return, he stirs up uncertainty and drives up prices. There are no technical reasons for the delivery cuts.
“Europe must be prepared for the worst case scenario”
The Russian gas company Gazprom had just announced that it would reduce deliveries through the Nord Stream 1 Baltic Sea pipeline from the current 40 percent to 20 percent of maximum capacity. Only 33 million cubic meters of gas should then flow through the most important supply pipeline to Germany every day. The reason was the repair of another turbine, it said.
Against this background, Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) once again emphasized the seriousness of the situation on Monday evening. “We are in a serious situation. It’s about time that everyone understood that,” he said on ARD’s “Tagesthemen”. Germany must reduce gas consumption. “We’re working on that.” The measures would have to be implemented consistently. The country must stand together and say: “Yes, (Kremlin chief Vladimir) Putin has the gas, but we have the power.” He described Gazprom’s reference to turbines as “farce stories” that simply weren’t true.
The EU Commission sees the announcements as evidence of the need for joint European emergency planning. It was precisely this type of scenario that prompted Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and the college to present a proposal for solidarity in saving gas, a spokesman said on Monday evening in Brussels. The development confirms our own analysis and it is hoped that the Council of Member States will decide on an appropriate answer this Tuesday.
Von der Leyen recently pointed out that Russia is already only delivering gas in part or not at all in twelve member states. “That’s why Europe has to be prepared for the worst case scenario: a complete stop to gas supplies, sooner or later,” she told the German Press Agency.
Von der Leyen countered critics of her emergency plans that the effects of a Russian supply freeze on all EU countries would be enormous – no matter how much gas they actually get from Russia. “Even member states that hardly purchase Russian gas cannot escape the consequences of a possible delivery stop in our internal market,” she explained.