Last week upon presenting a proposal meant to get the union through the winter, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen was candid about the risk of fuel shortage.
According to von der Leyen, it’s probable that Russia will completely shut off gas supply, thus calling EU countries to reduce consumption by 15% in order to refill inventories.
However, ahead of a meeting among EU member states’ climate and environmental ministers on Tuesday, there are several indications that the nations will pass a bill full of exemptions.
EU Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson acknowledges that numerous EU states have requested exceptions from the Commission’s proposal. Even so, she insists that an important step will be taken if the agreement passes as expected Tuesday.
”Our proposal will send a message based on agreement and solidarity. All the gas we don’t use will help member states facing a tough challenge,” Simson says:
”However, member states use varying gas volumes and have different gas connections. That’s why the Czechian presidency has has discussions with member states about how we can reach broad agreement for the plan.”
Agreement here is expected shortly after Russia has taken yet another step toward limited gas supply to the EU. Monday evening, Gazprom announced that it will cut gas volume through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to 20% of capacity. Delivery had already slumped to 40% of capacity.
This hits Germany especially hard being that the nation is deeply dependent on Russian gas. Other EU countries will also be impacted.
Division along old euro crisis lines
According to online media Politico, the situation is particularly toxic because the EU Commission’s proposal will largely relieve Germany. Countries opposing the bill are the very same nations – among others Greece, Portugal and Cyprus – that faced Germany’s inflexible demands during the euro crisis ten years back.
The situation thus could end up dividing EU nations, not least if short supply of gas results in certain companies being forced to stop production, and residents are unable to heat their homes this winter.
Simson says, though, that there will nonetheless be ”meaningful” reductions of gas consumption despite any exemptions grated.
”It’s important to underscore that member states are now continuing to fill up their gas stockpiles. In other words, member states have access to more gas than they use during summer months,” Simson states.
However, the question remains as to whether this will suffice to get the continent through the cold season. Professor Brian Vad Mathiesen, an energy planning specialist from Denmark’s Aalborg University, said on Monday that the EU is facing a difficult situation.
”Natural gas supply at 20% means we can’t refill gas inventories. Further, it would mean that we must make some hard decisions necessary to get through the coming winter in a reasonable way,” Mathiesen notes Monday.
(Note: EU Commission citations retranslated from Danish)