Gas storage: EU states agree to help Germany face Russian threat – 07/26/2022 at 22:40


The Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline near Lubmin, northeastern Germany, July 20, 2022 (AFP / Edouard MERLO)

The energy ministers of the European Union agreed on Tuesday in Brussels for their countries to reduce their gas consumption in a coordinated way, thus flying the help of Germany, after announcing a new severe drop in Russian delivery.

“The European Union confirmed today (Tuesday) that it is united and unified. We have taken a big step forward to ensure gas supply this winter,” said Czech Minister Jozef Sikela, whose country holds the rotating presidency. of the Council of the Council. EU.

“The negotiations were not easy, but in the end everyone understood that this sacrifice was necessary,” he added during a press conference.

Hungary, however, on Tuesday denounced an “unjustified, unnecessary, unenforceable and harmful” agreement. Among the Twenty-Seven, this country alone objected to the text, which was therefore adopted by a qualified majority.

The President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen welcomed the adoption of the plan she presented last week. Although it has been extensively overhauled.

It still provides that each country will do “everything possible” to reduce, between August 2022 and March 2023, gas consumption by at least 15% compared to the average of the last five years in the same period. Russia accounted for about 40% of the EU’s gas imports until last year.

If there is a “risk of severe shortages”, an alert mechanism will make the 15% reduction “binding” for the Twenty-Seven, but this objective will be adapted to the realities of each State, especially to the capacities of export the amount of gas saved in countries in need, thanks to a series of derogations.

– Replenishment of stocks –

“This collective commitment is very important and will help us rebuild stocks before winter,” said Ms von der Leyen.

Russian gas giant Gazprom announced on Monday that it would halve daily deliveries to Europe on Wednesday through the Nord Stream gas pipeline, thus dropping to just 20% of its capacity, citing operations to maintain a turbine.

A Kremlin spokesman said on Tuesday that the reduction in speed was due to Western sanctions taken against Russia after the invasion of Ukraine. “Without these restrictions, everything would have been done (…) at the usual time,” he said.

But the Europeans rejected the technical reason and accused Moscow of using the gas as an economic weapon.

Clashes continued on Tuesday in Ukraine, where southern regions were the subject of “massive” Russian bombing, particularly in a coastal village near Odessa and the port of Mykolaiv, according to Ukrainian authorities.

“Of course we will retaliate, regardless of the Russian Defense Ministry’s lies about these strikes,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his evening message.

Photo released on July 25, 2022 by the Ukrainian emergency services of a fire in a residential building after a shooting in Mykolaiv region, Ukraine (Ukrainian Emergency Services / STR)

Photo released on July 25, 2022 by the Ukrainian emergency services of a fire in a residential building after a shooting in Mykolaiv region, Ukraine (Ukrainian Emergency Services / STR)

He also criticized “a new factor in the increase in gas prices” targeting Europeans. “It is clear to everyone that this is the deliberate price of panic in Russia against Europe,” he added.

“By using Gazprom, Moscow is doing everything to make this winter the most difficult for European countries. We need to respond to panic, respond with sanctions,” said Zelensky.

– Saving European industry –

The evolution of natural gas prices in Europe in the Dutch TTF market, in euros per megawatt hour (AFP / )

The evolution of natural gas prices in Europe in the Dutch TTF market, in euros per megawatt hour (AFP / )

At the heart of the European system, the mandatory 15% reduction in consumption has sparked criticism.

It aims to consolidate efforts during an emergency, especially to help Germany, which is very dependent on Russian gas, still buying 35% of its gas in Russia at the beginning of June – compared to 55% in there is no war yet. .

However, a major shock to Europe’s largest economy will inevitably have repercussions across the EU.

The 15% reduction in gas consumption actually imposes restrictions on countries such as France and Spain, which are nevertheless protected from the destruction of Russian supplies thanks to their energy policies.

But the effort will remain greater for Germany. It should be “done better” than 15%, acknowledged the Minister of Economy, Robert Habeck, while welcoming European integration. Berlin “made a strategic mistake in the past” by developing this trust in Moscow, he admitted.

The plan in recent days has been the subject of strong criticism from several states. Among the harshest, those in Southern Europe, including Spain, where the memory of the painful austerity plans imposed by Berlin after the financial crisis of 2008 is still clear.

The Spanish Minister for Ecological Transition, Teresa Ribera, considers the project “unfair” and “inefficient”.

A gas burner in a kitchen in Copenhagen, May 16, 2022 (Ritzau Scanpix/Ida Marie Odgaard)

A gas burner in a kitchen in Copenhagen, May 16, 2022 (Ritzau Scanpix/Ida Marie Odgaard)

27 diplomats listened to the complaints. It is ultimately the Council of the EU, which represents the Member States, and not the Commission, as requested by the latter, that will trigger the binding mechanism.

The agreement provides exceptions for island states (Cyprus, Ireland, Malta), which are not connected to the gas networks of other countries, or for those that have exceeded their targets for filling gas tanks. It also reduced the storage target for countries whose connections are limited or which need gas for certain “critical industries”.

From Yaoundé, Cameroon, where he is visiting, the French President Emmanuel Macron for his part criticized on Tuesday “the hypocrisy” heard “especially on the African continent” which consists of unclear recognition of “a unilateral aggression” by Russia against Ukraine, as did the European Union.

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