European Union leaders are expected to reach an agreement on the phase-out the EU’s dependency on imports of Russian gas, oil and coal, marking a turning point in its policy towards Russia prompted by the invasion of Ukraine.
Burned by the experience of supply shortages in microchips and pharmaceuticals during the COVID-19 pandemic, the leaders will also discuss how to make the EU more strategically independent of global suppliers in these sectors and food.
The task will be tough, however, because the EU buys from Russia 45 % of its imported gas, around a third of its oil and nearly half of its coal. This makes the EU vulnerable should Russia decide to retaliate for EU policies by curbing exports.
The decision marks a turning point because only last year Germany was still pushing ahead to get the Russian Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline operational while Italy, Austria or Hungary, among the EU states most highly dependent on Russian energy supply, were in no rush to seek alternatives. But the Russian invasion of Ukraine changed everything.
Confronted with growing instability, strategic competition and security threats, the EU decided to take more responsibility for its security and take further decisive steps towards building European sovereignty, reducing dependencies and designing a new growth and investment model for 2030.
The EU would diversify its energy supplies and routes through the use of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and the development of biogas and hydrogen. Europe will also accelerate the development of renewables and the production of their key components. Further, EU countries will connect European gas and electricity networks to share the resources better, fully synchronize electricity networks and reinforce contingency planning for security of supply.
The aim is to have gas stocks at 90 % of capacity by the Autumn, up from around 30 % now. Discussions are ongoing with existing gas suppliers including Norway, Algeria and Azerbaijan to boost flows. In the short term, gas should be sourced from the US and Africa while some countries may need to use more coal in the months ahead.
Another key focus in the coming months will be increased imports of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) from suppliers including the US, Qatar and Australia. But with Germany announcing plans for two new LNG terminals to increase supplies, some experts are worried that this could increase longer term dependency on fossil fuels.
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Tags: European Union, gas, gas supply, Germany, oil, Russia