The EU is reluctant to severely cut energy ties with Russia | International

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The decision by Washington and London to cut Russian oil imports redoubles pressure on the European Union to adopt a similar punishment. But the EU is reluctant to cut oil imports for fear that Moscow will respond with a gas supply cutoff that would unleash very serious consequences for the economies of the Old Continent and, in particular, for Germany.

Russia’s deputy prime minister for energy affairs, Alexander Novak, has already warned on Tuesday that Moscow will cut off the flow of the Nord Stream I gas pipeline if the EU continues to question the credibility and stability of Russia’s hydrocarbon supply. “We know that we are fully entitled to make that decision and declare an embargo on the gas that transits the Nord Stream I, which is operating at 100% capacity.” This gas pipeline, with a capacity of 55,000 million cubic meters, reaches directly from Russia to the German coast through the bed of the Baltic Sea. “We have not made that decision,” said the Russian leader, who specified that in this EU battle to reduce its dependence “there will be no winners.”

Novak’s threat has come on the same day that the European Commission presented its plans to reduce Europe’s energy dependence on Russian hydrocarbons and when EU capitals began to ponder, under pressure from the US, the possibility of energy sanctions. against Russia.

The draft conclusions of the European summit that takes place this Thursday and Friday in Versailles (France) foresees “eliminating” the dependence on Russian gas, oil and coal. But the text adds that the disappearance of these Russian raw materials from the European market will be done “gradually”. And the European Commission calculates that the replacement by other sources or other providers will not be completed until 2030.

Germany, whose gas consumption depends 55% on Russian imports, leads the group of countries opposed to cutting energy ties with Moscow. Russian gas imports also exceed 50% in Finland, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Hungary. And they reach 100% in Latvia or the Czech Republic. In oil, the most dependent countries are Finland, Poland, Latvia and Slovakia.

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German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Monday that “the energy supply in Europe for heating, mobility, electricity and industry cannot currently be guaranteed in any other way” than with the Russian supply. Russian oil also accounts for a third of German imports of that energy source.

However, maintaining a stable trade relationship with Moscow is becoming increasingly difficult for Berlin to defend. And community sources do not rule out that, sooner or later, Germany will have to give in, as already happened with the paralysis of the Nord Stream II gas pipeline – a decision adopted when Putin recognized the independence of the self-proclaimed Ukrainian republics of Donbas – and with the disconnection of certain banks Swift’s Russians after the start of the war.

The resurgence of Russian bombing in Ukraine and the daily death of Ukrainian civilians increasingly calls into question some energy flows that report 700 million dollars a day to the coffers of companies largely controlled by the Kremlin. The impression that European imports of Russian energy are financing the carnage is increasingly spreading among EU public opinion.

Germany and other countries reluctant to dispense with Russian gas are confident that economic sanctions will break Putin and force him to seek a way out of the conflict before reaching a very dangerous supply break for European economies.

The EU covers 60% of its energy consumption with imports. Dependence on foreign countries reaches 90% in gas, 97% in oil and 70% in coal, according to data from the European Commission. In all these games Moscow is a key player. From Russia comes 45% of European gas imports, 46% of coal and 27% of oil.

European sources acknowledge that the easiest to reduce or cut are oil, both because of less dependence on Russia and because of the greater ease of diversifying supply. But Brussels fears the domino effect of an oil embargo on other imports from Russia, which could condemn the EU to a serious energy crisis.

The EU prefers to progressively unhook from the 200,000 million cubic meters of Russian gas and the 150 million tons of Russian crude that it consumes each year. Brussels estimates that its energy transition plans will reduce Russian gas consumption by 155 billion cubic meters before 2030.

For this same year, Brussels calculates that it could import 50,000 million cubic meters more of liquefied natural gas and increase imports from Algeria, Azerbaijan or Norway by 10,000 million cubic meters. That increase, plus the efficiency measures and the boost to renewables, could reduce Russian gas imports by 66% by the end of 2022. “It is difficult, incredibly difficult,” acknowledged the vice president of the European Commission for energy affairs, Frans Timmermans. So difficult that the International Energy Agency calculates that the EU should aim to reduce its imports by a third this year.

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