The energy war of Vladimir Putin against the The European Union (EU), due to the European response to the war in Ukraine, once again puts the solidarity of the Twenty-seven to the test. Although the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline is back in operation, the risk that the Kremlin restricts the supply of gas at any time, with the consequent social and economic impact, has taken to the European Commissionto include in its contingency plans the commitment to reduce the consumption of this fossil fuel by 15% between August and March 2023. A voluntary movement that Brussels could make binding, by law. The proposal has been received with absolute coldness in capitals such as Madrid or Lisbon and doubts and skepticism in others. The plan will clash. It underwent its first acid test on Tuesday, during an extraordinary meeting of energy ministers that promises to be heated.
Is a 15% savings really necessary? Why? it must apply equally to all when not all Member States have the same dependence on gas from Russia? Why? Should the European Commission be the one to activate the alert in case of shortage and impose reductions in an eminently national sphere of competence? These are questions that are in the air and that are expected to come back to the table on July 26 when the energy ministers examine for the first time the plans of Ursula von der Leyen's team at a meeting. ;n that will start at ten o'clock in the morning.
The first debate among the Twenty-seven, at the ambassadorial level, took place this Wednesday. It was prolonged for three hours and served. to verify, according to diplomatic sources present in the discussion, that the southern countries –Spain, Portugal, Italy, Malta, Cyprus and Greece– are not satisfied with the plan designed by Brussels. Neither do other eastern countries such as Hungary or Poland. The ambassadors will once again try to reconcile positions in a new preparatory meeting this Friday, but it is taken for granted that the negotiation of the regulation, whose approval requires a qualified majority that Brussels expects to get on Tuesday, it will be very complicated.
“We perfectly understand that we have to be supportive when a Member State has a hard time and when there are many having a bad time, but to be effective in the response we have to approach things well”, he reproached this Thursday in the microphones of Cadena to be the third vice president and responsible for the ecological transition of the Spanish Government, Teresa Ribera. And in the opinion of Spain, the Commission has not done things well. In the first place, because there has not been a debate with the Member States and because the specificities of each energy market have been ignored. A criticism rejected by sources from the Community Executive who stress that precisely at the last minute they agreed to include the possibility that countries that could demonstrate a lack of interconnections would benefit from a partial repeal and reduce by 5 % the required savings.
A gesture that has not softened the criticism, neither from Spain nor from neighboring Portugal. “Portugal is totally against the proposal of the European Commission because it does not take into account the differences between countries. This cannot be applied to Portugal”, the secretary of state for energy, Joao Galamba, argued this Wednesday, who dismisses the proposal as “disproportionate and unsustainable”. Neither in Athens have the Brussels plans been well received. “The Greek government is not In agreement, in principle, with the Commission's proposal to reduce the consumption of natural gas” by 15%, the spokesman, Giannis Oikonomou, has warned.< /p>
Germany calls for solidarity
Germany, on the other hand, highly dependent on Russian gas and without facilities for the regasification of liquefied natural gas from other third countries, has received the Brussels plans with relief and hope. “European solidarity is more important than ever in these times. We need to work more closely to be able to act better together in situations of gas crisis”, valued the economy minister, Robert Habeck, as soon as the proposals were known.
This Thursday it has announced that Germany, to whom Russia supplies 30% of the gas they use to produce electricity or heat houses, will introduce saving measures, also in public buildings as well as a “control” heating, anticipating one of the requirements to request the solidarity of their neighbors in case of problems: first demonstrate that they have taken measures to reduce their consumption. Berlin, like Brussels, emphasizes the impact that the city will have. a total gas cut-off by Moscow. “If the gas supply in one or more countries is in difficulties, all the Member States will be affected,” predicts Habeck.
And the same goes for Von der Leyen. “There are countries more exposed than others to Russian gas and more vulnerable in the event of cuts, but all Member States will suffer the consequences through the single market,” said the German at the presentation. “It is important that each Member State contributes to saving energy, to storage and is willing to show solidarity with its neighbors”, he asserted regarding a fundamental concept of the Treaty and one that has been crucial in dealing with the economic crisis, with a European recovery fund of almost 800,000 million, and the pandemic with the joint purchase of a vaccine.