Tuesday

16th Jul 2019

Europe looking at alternatives to Russian gas

  • Merkel turns on Russia's Nord Stream gas pipeline: EU countries's dependency on Russia varies from zero to over 90 percent (Photo: nordstream.com)

EU leaders meeting in Brussels on Thursday and Friday (20-21 March) will look at ways to lower the bloc's dependence on Russian gas, as they prepare economic sanctions against Moscow over Ukraine.

"The European Council is concerned about Europe's high energy dependency rates, especially on gas, and calls for intensifying efforts to reduce them, especially in the most dependent member states," according to the draft summit conclusions seen by EUobserver.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports - including from the US where a shale gas revolution has driven prices down - could be an option, along with improved energy efficiency, better infrastructure, increased gas storage, and a more long-term goal to increase the local production of solar and wind energy.

"The objectives of completing the internal energy market by 2014 and developing interconnections so as to put an end to any isolation of member states from European gas and electricity networks by 2015 remain a priority," the draft conclusions read.

Part of the EU reaction to the Russian invasion of Ukraine is also the halting of a gas pipeline project - South Stream - that would only have increased the dependence on Russian gas in south-eastern EU countries.

"I'm not accelerating our talks regarding pipelines such as South Stream. They will be delayed," EU energy commissioner Guenther Oettinger, told Die Welt newspaper this week.

Dependency on Russian gas imports varies greatly among member states - Bulgaria is over 90 percent reliant on Russian exports, while neighbouring Romania - which still has its own oil and gas reserves, as well as hydro and nuclear plants - imports only 25 percent of its gas from Russia.

Of the big countries, Germany imports around 35 percent of its gas from Russia, while the UK and France are almost zero-reliant on Russian gas because they import LNG and, in France's case, generate most of their energy via nuclear plants.

Poland meanwhile, which imports about 70 percent of its gas from Russia, as well as Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia - the so-called Visegrad Group - have called on the US to lift its legislative hurdles on exporting American shale gas to Europe.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk also brought up this topic when receiving German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Warsaw on Wednesday.

"We discussed about the technical possibilities of importing gas from America, if this could be done in the future. And we concluded that we are on the same side," Tusk said during a joint press conference with Merkel.

He also repeated the long-standing Polish request for EU countries to consult each other before signing gas deals with Russia, a demand Merkel was less convinced about because "it is private companies, not governments who buy gas."

On US gas imports, British foreign secretary William Hague also noted that EU leaders are starting to explore it as an alternative to Russian gas. "This is now beginning to be discussed between European politicians, including ourselves, and Americans," he said in an interview with BBC television last week.

Britain buys only about one percent of its natural gas from Russia and has five LNG terminals.

According to the association of gas infrastructure companies in the EU (GIE), the bloc has reserves for at least a month, were it to be cut off from Russian gas exports that come mostly through pipelines crossing Ukraine.

"Most of the European transmission systems currently can withstand a disruption of Russian gas through Ukraine. The pipeline network is available for diverting gas flows in case of supply problems from Russia from storage and LNG to market," GIE said in a press release earlier this week.

On 10 March, there were 37 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas in stock in the EU and 2.5 bcm worth of gas in LNG imports, it said. The average monthly consumption of gas in EU countries is around 40 bcm.

Doing business with Russia: A German dilemma

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is determined to impose economic sanctions on Russia over Ukraine if diplomacy fails. German firms doing business in Russia are warning about the consequences.

EU hesitates to back France over US tariff threat

France has passed a new tax on tech companies that will affect US global giants like Facebook. Donald Trump has threatened retaliatory tariffs over it. The EU commission says it will "coordinate closely with French" on the next steps.

EU banks more vulnerable to shocks than feared

Eurozone banks, such as Deutsche Bank, might be much more vulnerable to a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis than EU "stress-tests" have said, according to a new audit.

News in Brief

  1. Ansip's ex-cabinet chief to head EU cybersecurity agency
  2. Malta starts trial of journalist murder suspects
  3. Full text of von der Leyen candidacy speech to MEPs
  4. Von der Leyen open to further Brexit delay
  5. Von der Leyen promises carbon border tax
  6. Brexit: both UK PM candidates say Irish backstop is 'dead'
  7. Mogherini: Iran's nuclear enrichment 'reversible'
  8. Report: Selmayr to leave 'next week'

Feature

Romania enlists priests to promote euro switchover plan

Romania is due to join the single currency in 2024 - despite currently only meeting one of the four criteria. Now the government in Bucharest is enlisting an unlikely ally to promote the euro to the public: the clergy.

Trump and Kurz: not best friends, after all

The visit of Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz to the White House on Wednesday showed that the current rift in transatlantic relations is deepening by the day.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. Son: Malta trial for murdered journalist 'not enough'
  2. Von der Leyen's final appeal to secure top EU post
  3. EU talks tough on Turkey, but arms sales go on
  4. The Abortion Exodus - more Poles and Croats going abroad
  5. Poland's ex-PM loses EU parliament chair again
  6. Von der Leyen reaches out to left and liberal MEPs
  7. Farmers among new MEPs deciding on EU farming money
  8. Von der Leyen's EU vote far from sure

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us