The head of the European Union has suggested that member nations reduce their gas use by 15% over the next several months to prevent any Russian natural gas supply cuts from the bloc from seriously disrupting industries and adding to the chill in homes next winter.
BRUSSELS (AP) — As the union prepared for a potential complete Russian stoppage of natural gas supplies that might significantly cool the oncoming winter, the European Union’s headquarters urged on Wednesday that member states reduce their gas use by 15% over the following months.
In addition to asking for the authority to impose mandatory cuts across the EU in the event of an emergency brought on by what Commission President Ursula von der Leyen believed to be President Vladimir Putin’s deliberate attempt to weaponize gas exports, the Commission also requested that the initial cuts be voluntary.
“Russia is using us as a pawn. Energy is being used as a weapon by Russia. Therefore, Europe must be prepared for any scenario, whether it involves a partial or complete shutdown of Russian gas, according to von der Leyen.
On Tuesday, the energy ministers will convene in an emergency session to debate the measures. National capitals would have to think about giving up some of their control over energy policy to Brussels for them to be approved.
“We must take the initiative. We need to get ready in case Russian gas is completely disrupted. This is a likely scenario. We’ve seen that before,” von der Leyen said, adding that Gazprom, which is under Kremlin control, showed little interest in market forces and instead engaged in political maneuvering to stifle the EU.
Between August and March of next year, cutting gas consumption by 15% won’t be a simple task. The European Commission made it clear that its planned goal would require all EU nations to increase the level of rationing now in place since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
Savings at the EU level have reached 5% thus far, according to EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson. “This isn’t enough.”
The idea from Wednesday comes after a blog post from the International Monetary Fund highlighted the 27-nation bloc’s vulnerabilities.
The IMFBlog cautioned that a complete suspension of gas delivery “maybe even more catastrophic” than the partial one now having an impact on European development. It also noted that the GDP of members like Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic would decline by as much as 6%.
It “would also have severe consequences” on Italy, a nation that already has significant economic issues.
According to EU economic estimates released last week, the war in Ukraine with Russia is anticipated to hurt economic recovery for the foreseeable future, leading to reduced annual growth and record-high inflation. As the union is recuperating from a pandemic-induced slowdown, the disruptions in the Russian energy trade pose a possibility of starting a recession.
The EU agreed on prohibitions on most Russian oil and coal to go into force later this year after Russia invaded Ukraine, but natural gas was left out because the 27-nation union relies on gas to run companies, produce electricity, and heat homes. To try to create economic and political devastation in Europe this winter, von der Leyen is now confident that Putin will cut off the gas in any case.
Putin is trying to manipulate us this winter, but if we stand together, von der Leyen predicted that he will spectacularly fail.
Her ideas are designed to keep hospitals and other vital services operating while forcing others to make cuts. This might entail cooling down public buildings’ heating systems and encouraging families to conserve energy at home.
Although the EU countries and the Commission have been on a buying binge to diversify their natural gas suppliers away from Russia, it is still anticipated that they would fall far short of supplying homes and businesses with adequate energy during the cold months.
There are worries that the energy situation may worsen if Russia does not restore a crucial pipeline to Germany once scheduled maintenance concludes on Thursday. Russia has turned off or restricted gas to a dozen EU countries.
The energy crunch is also bringing back Europe’s long-forgotten political issues. National governments have fiercely preserved their authority over energy issues while the EU has gained consolidated control over monetary, trade, antitrust, and farm policy.
The European Commission has been gradually eroding this stronghold of national sovereignty for decades, utilizing prior supply shortages to obtain increases in EU influence. The most severe test of whether or not member nations are willing to sacrifice more of their energy dominance is currently the five-month-old Russian invasion of Ukraine.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, member governments did work together to produce and purchase vaccines in unprecedented numbers, demonstrating remarkable unity of purpose in the healthcare industry.
“We have taken the pandemic’s lesson to heart. Fragmentation is our deadliest enemy in a situation like this, we are aware, said von der Leyen.
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