23rd Mar 2023

Summit set to agree gas purchases, skirt Russia oil ban

  • The EU Commission last year has already proposed a system to jointly buy strategic stock of gas to provide a buffer against supply disruptions (Photo: European Parliament)
Listen to article

EU heads of state and government meeting at a summit later this week are expected to agree to joint purchasing of natural gas, liquified natural gas and hydrogen as part of efforts to decrease their dependency on Russian energy.

According to draft summit conclusions, the leaders were also set to ramp up gas storage, and interconnection between their countries, and to discuss how to control soaring energy prices.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"With a view to next winter, member states and the commission will urgently coordinate measures to ensure adequate levels of gas storage; work together on the joint purchase of gas, LNG and hydrogen," said the draft conclusions, which still could change pending the outcome of the 24-25 March summit in Brussels.

The EU-27 plan to establish "necessary solidarity mechanisms" and to "complete and improve our interconnections." They also would look at how to "optimise" the functioning of the energy markets and ask the EU Commission to take "necessary initiatives."

The commission has already proposed a system for jointly purchasing strategic stocks of gas to provide a buffer against potential supply disruptions, and it was set to take further steps on Wednesday — making the EU more resilient to volatility on the gas market, and mitigating energy prices though the use of tools including a price cap.

"Our intention is to work on the best options available for the heads of state and government," commission vice-president Maroš Šefčovič told reporters on Tuesday.

He said the commission would put forward a legislative framework so each gas storage unit could be filled by 1 November to at least 90-percent-capacity ahead of winter each year. EU storage is currently running at 26-percent-capacity.

"We need to do much better when it comes to energy security," Šefčovič said.

European gas prices had been rising in the months leading up to the invasion, and that already had prompted governments to spend billions of euros on tax breaks and subsidies to shield citizens from the higher costs.

Spain, Belgium, Portugal, Italy and Greece are calling for intervention in Europe's energy markets that would entail capping prices, or decoupling the price of electricity from the soaring price of gas.

States including Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and Denmark oppose market intervention; they prefer to speed up the rollout of renewables as a way to phase out fossil fuels and accelerate energy independence.

A third group of countries, central and eastern Europeans, want to reevaluate and reduce the ambition of the commission's flagship green package, Fit for 55, because they think these climate policies will push prices even higher.

A Polish diplomat said the EU should first reassess its political priorities: "Until we know the scale of the necessary redefinition of our climate and energy policy, negotiations on the Fit For 55 package in its present form should be slowed down or even halted by the EU," the diplomat said.

Another diplomat, who asked not to be identified by country, said the plan to cap prices could be hard to implement in practice. Energy is a global commodity and so energy producers could earn much more selling to higher paying regions like Asia, with little incentive to keep selling as much to Europe, the diplomat warned.

Sanctions later

EU leaders are not expected to adopt a new round of sanctions at their summit despite the escalating Russian attacks on civilians in Ukraine.

That is a sign of the deep divide on whether to limit, let alone ban, oil and gas imports from Russia, which supplies Europe with important quantities of both.

Poland and the Baltic states want further sanctions, including on energy supplies. Germany, however, has been arguing that any sanctions on energy sources must be done with care and deliberation.

"We need to strengthen our sanctions if Russia doesn't show any signs of striving for peace," French minister for EU affairs, Clément Beaune, said Tuesday. "We have seen over the last few days is that Russia has intensified its attacks," he said.

"It is possible there may soon be further sanctions, this is a discussion which is upcoming."

Green label for gas may be coming unstuck

The European Commission on Tuesday defended labelling natural gas as a sustainable investment during a session at the European Parliament. Sceptical lawmakers said demand for gas is strong enough.

EU Commission proposes Russian oil-ban in new sanctions

Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said EU countries should phase out Russian crude oil imports within six months, and refined oil by the end of the year to minimise the impact on European economy and global supply.


How much can we trust Russian opinion polls on the war?

The lack of Russian opposition to the Russo-Ukrainian War is puzzling. The war is going nowhere, Russian casualties are staggering, the economy is in trouble, and living standards are declining, and yet polls indicate that most Russians support the war.


Turkey's election — the Erdoğan vs Kılıçdaroğlu showdown

Turkey goes to the polls in May for both a new parliament and new president, after incumbent Recep Tayyip Erdoğan decided against a post-earthquake postponement. The parliamentary outcome is easy to predict — the presidential one less so.

Latest News

  1. How German business interests have shaped EU climate agenda
  2. The EU-Turkey migration deal is dead on arrival at this summit
  3. Sweden worried by EU visa-free deal with Venezuela
  4. Spain denies any responsibility in Melilla migrant deaths
  5. How much can we trust Russian opinion polls on the war?
  6. Banning PFAS 'forever chemicals' may take forever in Brussels
  7. EU Parliament joins court case against Hungary's anti-LGBTI law
  8. Three French MEPs to stay on election-observation blacklist

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ways to prevent gender-based violence
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: Economic gender equality now! Nordic ways to close the pension gap
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: Pushing back the push-back - Nordic solutions to online gender-based violence
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: The Nordics are ready to push for gender equality
  5. Promote UkraineInvitation to the National Demonstration in solidarity with Ukraine on 25.02.2023
  6. Azerbaijan Embassy9th Southern Gas Corridor Advisory Council Ministerial Meeting and 1st Green Energy Advisory Council Ministerial Meeting

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us