European Union headquarters have proposed that member states cut their gas consumption by 15% in the coming months to ensure a complete disruption in Russian natural gas supplies to the bloc will not fundamentally disrupt industries next winter.
While the initial cuts would be voluntary, the Commission also called for the power to enforce mandatory bloc-wide cuts in the event of an EU-wide alert “when there is a significant risk of severe gas shortages or exceptionally high gas demand”. leading to a significant deterioration in the gas supply situation”.
The need is great, said EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
“Russia is blackmailing us. Russia uses energy as a weapon. And that is why Europe must definitely be ready, whether it is a partial major Russian gas disruption or a full Russian gas disruption,” Ms von der Leyen said.
EU member states will discuss the measures at an emergency meeting of energy ministers next Tuesday.
For them to be approved, national capitals would need to consider handing over their energy policy powers to Brussels.
Wednesday’s proposal comes as an International Monetary Fund blog post has warned of the power Russian President Vladimir Putin could wield by arming energy exports and stalling the 27-nation bloc.
“The partial shutdown of gas supplies is already having an impact on European growth and a full shutdown could be far more serious,” IMFBlog warned.
It added that gross domestic product could contract by as much as 6% in member countries such as Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
Italy, a country already facing serious economic problems, “would also face a significant impact”.
EU economic forecasts last week showed Russia’s war in Ukraine is likely to have a devastating impact on the economic recovery for the foreseeable future, with lower annual growth and record-high inflation.
Disruptions in Russia’s energy trading threaten to trigger a recession in the bloc just as it recovers from a pandemic-related slump.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine, the EU has approved bans on Russian coal and most oil, due to come into effect later this year, but natural gas has not been included as the 27-nation bloc relies on gas, to power factories, generate electricity and heat homes.
Now she fears Mr Putin will turn off the gas anyway to try to wreak economic and political havoc in Europe this winter.
Such threats have forced the block’s headquarters to draw up a plan focused on energy cuts and savings that could make for a much colder winter, but one without massive disruptions.
“We have to be proactive. We must prepare for a possible complete disruption of Russian gas. And this is a likely scenario. We’ve seen that in the past,” said Ms. von der Leyen.
The goal is to ensure that key industries and services, such as hospitals, continue to function while others would have to scale back.
This could include turning down heating in public buildings and encouraging families to use less energy at home.
“Assuming that there is a complete disruption to Russian gas, we need to save gas, fill our gas storage facilities faster and, in doing so, reduce our gas consumption. I know this is a big task,” said Ms. von der Leyen.
EU nations and the Commission have gone on a buying spree to diversify their natural gas sources away from Russia, but are expected to still be a long way from providing enough energy for businesses and homes during the cold months.
Even when the EU has just enough petrol to keep the lights on and the factories running, it does so at painfully high prices that have fueled runaway inflation and provoked public uproar.
Russia has shut off or reduced gas to some EU countries and there are fears the energy crisis will worsen if Moscow fails to restart a key pipeline to Germany after scheduled maintenance ends on Thursday.
A dozen nations have already experienced supply disruptions by Gazprom from one day to the next.
The energy shortage is also reviving decades-old political challenges for Europe.
While the EU has gained centralized authority over monetary, trade, antitrust and agricultural policies, national capitals have jealously guarded their powers over energy matters.
The European Commission has spent decades shaking this bastion of national sovereignty, using past supply disruptions to gradually secure EU clout.
The five-month-old Russian invasion of Ukraine is now the severest test of member countries’ willingness to give up more of their energy power.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, Member States have joined forces in common action to support the development and bulk purchase of vaccines in an unprecedented demonstration of collective determination in the health sector.
“This is a moment for Europe to build on the determination and solidarity shown during the pandemic to address the challenging moment it faces today,” the IMFBlog said.
https://www.independent.ie/world-news/europe/eu-calls-for-15pc-cut-in-gas-consumption-over-next-eight-months-amid-fears-over-russian-supply-41854763.html The EU is calling for a 15 percent cut in gas use over the next eight months amid fears over Russian supplies