Status: 07/26/2022 5:45 p.m.
Even though these are just voluntary savings targets decided by EU countries, one thing is clear: this is a signal of unity. In the event of an emergency, we can hope that Europe will then act quickly.
It was more than you could expect. Not even a week ago, the President of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, presented her gas saving proposal.
The agreement now, so to speak under the express procedure, is an astonishing achievement by Brussels standards and a signal of unity. In the end, only Hungary voted against the compromise, which was certainly realized under the impression of the new Russian gas reduction announced yesterday.
Everyone is afraid of winter, and if you can’t stand up to Russia together, one country won’t be able to. And if you want to count on the solidarity of others in an emergency, you must not turn a blind eye to joint action. Especially since these are only symbols for the moment and each country can continue to give priority to its own concerns.
Because Commission President von der Leyen has once again failed in her attempt to interfere in national competences in energy policy. EU countries want to decide for themselves whether to declare a gas emergency and have taken the reins of trade out of the hands of the European Commission.
Compared to the Commission proposal, there are now many derogations. Countries like Cyprus, Malta or Ireland, traditionally not very dependent on Russian gas, should not be forced to save gas as long as they are not directly connected to the gas network of another Member State.
For countries with large gas reserves, the throttling targets should also be lower. And countries that need gas consumption as a raw material, for example to produce food or fertilizer, are also allowed to reduce the amount saved.
Savings plan impractical
This list of special rights could be continued. Even though there is an understandable justification for each individual exception, it is predictable that the contingency plan now on the table will fail to save 15% gas.
But that’s not the point. Brussels simply likes numbers, even if, as in this case, they are only symbolic targets. Because no one knows if we will actually survive an above-average winter with the roughly 45 billion cubic meters of natural gas behind if Russia stops deliveries.
And Moscow probably sees little reason to honor its peacetime commitments. In this context, this EU gas emergency plan is only a first step. Depending on what the emergency looks like – at first you probably can’t even guess – this plan then has to be adapted to the realities. Just as you have taken the first step, you can hope that Europe will act quickly and continue to grow with the challenges.
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EU energy ministers decide on emergency gas plan
Matthias Reiche, ARD Brussels, 26.7.2022 5:50 p.m.