BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union governments agreed Tuesday to ration natural gas this winter to protect themselves from further supply cuts by Russia as Moscow pursues its invasion of Ukraine. Is.
EU energy ministers approved a draft European law aimed at reducing gas demand by 15 percent from August to March. The new legislation includes voluntary national initiatives to reduce gas consumption and, if they achieve insufficient savings, a trigger for mandatory action in the 27-member bloc.
European Commission President Ursula van der Leyen welcomed the move, saying in a statement that “the European Union has taken decisive action to address the threat of a total gas shutdown by (Russian President Vladimir) Putin.”
On Monday, Russian energy giant Gazprom said it would limit supplies to the European Union through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to 20 percent of capacity, fueling fears that Putin may oppose the war in Ukraine. Will use gas trade to challenge opposition to bloc
“Winter is coming and we don’t know how cold it will be,” said Czech Industry Minister Josef Scilla, whose policy portfolio includes energy. “But what we know for sure is that Putin will continue to play his dirty game of gas supply abuse and blackmail.”
The ministerial agreement was sealed in less than a week. This is based on a proposal made last Wednesday by the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm. Seeking to maintain a common EU front on a dispute that shows no signs of abating, the Commission said coordinated rationing would enable the bloc to survive the winter as a whole if Russia cut all gas deliveries. turn it off
Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February and the West protested against economic sanctions, 12 EU countries have faced cuts or freezes to Russian gas deliveries.
Although it has agreed to impose a ban on oil and coal from Russia later this year, the EU has avoided approving Russian natural gas because Germany, Italy and some other member states have high tariffs on those imports. depend on
German Economy Minister Robert Haebeck, who is also responsible for energy and serves as the country’s vice chancellor, said, “Germany made a strategic mistake in the past by relying too much on Russian gas and believing that It will always flow steadily and cheaply.” “But it’s not just a German problem.”
Barriers to Russian energy trade with the European Union are holding back inflation in Europe, already at record levels, and threatening to trigger a recession in the bloc as it recovers from a pandemic-induced slowdown.
The energy squeeze is also reviving decades-old political tests for Europe on policy coordination. Although the EU has centralized authority over fiscal, trade, antitrust and farm policies, national sovereignty still largely prevails in energy matters.
In a sign of this, energy ministers scrapped a clause in the draft gas rationing law that would have given the European Commission the power to decide on any measure, from voluntary to mandatory actions. Instead, ministers ensured that any decision on mandatory measures would be in the hands of member states.
They also weakened other elements of the original proposal, including immunity for island nations.
Nevertheless, Tuesday’s agreement marks another milestone in EU policy integration and crisis management.
The deal comes just six days after the Commission tabled the draft law as soon as possible – in stark contrast to past EU legislative initiatives in the energy sector that often involved months or years of negotiations between national governments. were
In this respect, the new gas rationing plan resembles developments in EU health policy two years ago when, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, member states agreed to act by consensus. This includes allowing the commission to negotiate agreements with pharmaceutical companies to supply vaccines to all 27 countries.