29th Jun 2022

MEPs call for a more forceful EU response to Kremlin gas cut

  • Gazprom HQ in Moscow: the Russian energy giant in April halted gas supplies to Bulgaria and Poland after they declined to pay for gas in roubles (Photo: Mitya Aleshkovsky)
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With the Kremlin having cut off gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria for three weeks, MEPs have called on the European Commission to come up with a stronger response and set aside funds to help countries affected by Russian energy aggression.

"Putin will cut off supply to other member states. It is just a matter of time," Green MEP Bronis Ropé told energy commissioner Kadri Simson on Thursday (19 May).

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"We should show solidarity and think about financing," he added.

Simson was in the EU parliament to present the commission's RePowerEU strategy. The plan sets aside €210bn worth of investment to completely quit Russian gas by 2027 and replace it with renewables and overseas liquified natural gas.

According to the commissioner, "both Poland and Bulgaria were not impacted" by the Russian gas cutoff, which she said was proof of "the important work we have done in building solidarity and the European gas infrastructure."

But some MEPs said Russian aggression had to be addressed more forcefully.

"RepPowerEU is a good and courageous but mid-term initiative. Cutting off gas to Poland and Bulgaria is an act of aggression that needs an immediate response," MEP Radan Kanev from the centre-right European People's Party said, adding that. "Finland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia are under threat now, so we must react."

On Wednesday, Finnish state-owned gas company Gasum said it expected Russia to cut gas exports to the country "by the weekend."

Finnish households barely use gas but industry is heavily dependent on it, and the country lacks easy access to alternatives.

Both Poland and Bulgaria met the Russian gas cut with defiance. Poland intends to replace Russian gas with imports from Norway via the Baltic Pipeline. Bulgarian prime minister Kiril Petkov has said the country has secured gas "for the sufficiently foreseeable period."

But MEPs said that some member states would be hit worse than others and want the EU to purchase energy jointly.

"I would like to call on the commission to immediately create a mechanism to purchase LNG together as we did for the vaccine, Socialist & Democrats lawmaker Marek Pawel Balt said. "Together, we can get lower prices."

Simson said RePowerEU proposes to develop a voluntary joint-purchasing mechanism.

Some MEPs, however, doubted the level of solidarity among member states.

"We want to stop the flow of money to Russia. That is why the embargoes say we should refuse to pay for gas with roubles, but some are simply paying up in roubles. What happened to our values?," European People's Party MEP Eva Maydell said.

EU executive vice president Frans Timmermans said on Wednesday that "paying in roubles is in violation of the sanctions and the contracts".

But Italian energy giant Eni has defied EU guidelines and announced on Tuesday that it has started procedures to open accounts roubles with Gazprombank.

"Since the start of the war, Greece increased Russian imports by 69 percent. It is ridiculous. Institutions are showing the way. Unfortunately, many governments are not following their example," Renew Europe lawmaker Georgios Kyrtsos said.

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