EU gas emergency plan: agreement in sight?

For more than a week now EU countries have been discussing the EU Commission's proposal for a gas emergency plan. This would require member states to voluntarily cut their gas use by 15 percent and help each other out in case of shortages. After Russia announced further reductions in the supplies sent via the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline as of Wednesday, an official agreement is expected today. Europe's press reflects a struggle for solidarity.

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La Stampa (IT) /

Very watered down

Little remains of the EU Commission's original plan, La Stampa explains:

“First of all the Commission has been stripped of the power to declare a state of emergency, which is the basic prerequisite for making the target of reducing gas consumption by 15 percent binding - a reduction that is supposed to be achieved on a voluntary basis in the first phase [from 1 August to 31 March]. For a situation to be categorised as an emergency the EU Council, i.e. the governments, now need a qualified majority . ... Moreover, a request by three states will no longer be sufficient to sound the alarm; at least five will be required. ... Lastly it was decided that the regulation should remain in force for one year only, although extendable of course.”

Äripäev (EE) /

Painful detox

Europe has no option but to buckle up and cold turkey together, Äripäev writes:

“By now even the most naive people in Europe will have understood how poisonous Putin's gas is, and that to preserve the democratic world order we have no choice but to somehow get through the hard times ahead. ... The worst war criminal, the autocratic leader of Russia, has control over the gas tap. This strategically built system has long since become a tool of manipulation.”

Proto Thema (GR) /

North wants to force South into energy poverty

Proto Thema is annoyed by the behaviour of the governments of Northern Europe and by Germany in particular:

“What a coincidence that the North is setting the agenda again! And when proposals come from the South, like the one from Greece most recently, which Italy and the Iberian countries also agreed to, according to which decisions on introducing a cap on the wholesale price of natural gas would be taken jointly by all member states in order to stop the game of trading in futures, then the Germans turn a deaf ear and postpone the proposal indefinitely.”

La Razón (ES) /

Now the South must show solidarity

Spain would do well to show its gratitude on this issue, La Razón reminds us:

“This is a call for solidarity among Europeans - the same solidarity that was shown when Europe was hit by the international financial crisis of 2008 and it was mainly the budget surpluses of our northern European partners that provided the financing needed by other economies that had been less prudent with their finances. ... In the gas crisis, Spain is in a better position than countries like Germany because it has one of the best gas storage and regasification infrastructures in the world. ... So we must demand from our government the same willingness to show solidarity that it demands when it comes to keeping the ECB's funds flowing.”

Novaya Gazeta Europe (RU) /

Russia endangering its own gas exploitation projects

Novaya Gazeta Europa explains the risks Russia is taking by cutting exports:

“In 2013, [US oil giant] ExxonMobil drilled the 'Universitetskaya-1' well in the Kara Sea, which contains huge reserves of oil and gas. In 2014, ExxonMobil was forced to close the well and leave Russia because of 'Crimean sanctions'. [Russian oil company] Rosneft has unofficially admitted on several occasions that it lacks the technology to reopen this well or to drill a new one next to it. The same fate awaits almost all the closed gas wells in Russia - and they have to be closed because with a sharp decline in gas exports, there is nowhere to store the extracted gas. And Russia doesn't have large capacities for liquefaction either.”

Expressen (SE) /

The boot is on the other foot now

Southern Europe's resentment towards Germany may be understandable but it is not productive, Expressen stresses:

“From Italians, Greeks and Spaniards we are hearing barbed comments about how the Germans should have thought first before becoming so dependent on Russia. No one in Southern Europe has forgotten the sarcasm and the special demands made by Germany when these countries needed solidarity a few years ago. But at the end of the day, then as now: we stand together or fall together. Europe needs the German economy and the German economy needs Europe. We can only defeat Putin together. ... Now it is Europe's most powerful country that is having to beg for help.”

Hospodářské noviny (CZ) /

Solidarity in pain

Hospodářské noviny is optimistic that the EU countries will agree to show solidarity with each other in the gas crisis:

“For the most part European solidarity is not an idealist instrument promoted in the name of a federal Europe but a pragmatic one, promoted by leaders who want to ensure their citizens are kept warm. ... When the energy ministers vote on a common gas emergency plan this week in Brussels, it will be like in 2009 when the finance ministers sat up all night debating how to save the Eurozone. It will be an unpleasant search for a level of pain that everyone can bear, but it will also create hope for a future in which European solidarity continues to grow.”

Wiener Zeitung (AT) /

This time the north is counting on the south

The Wiener Zeitung sees the EU facing a historic challenge:

“The role of supplicant is a new one, especially for Germany. ... Now it's the states in Southern and Western Europe - those largely autonomous from Russian gas - that are asking themselves why they should make painful sacrifices for the benefit of much richer states. In the best case, this could result in a stronger union; in the worst to a new rift. At least, one could say, that once again the outcome is entirely in our hands.”

Le Figaro (FR) /

Let's hope the solidarity holds

Le Figaro asks whether European redistribution of gas would function in a time of scarcity:

“Tomorrow, will the French accept that gas that comes through French gas terminals is being delivered to companies in Germany, when we don't have enough ourselves? Voices are already being raised in the public debate. Is the great vulnerability of Deutschland AG not the product of an inconsistent and dogmatic energy policy? Let the Germans take care of themselves! A rationale that is blind to our own weak points and dependencies. With our nuclear power plants in the state they're in, France will not survive the winter without electricity imports.”

Népszava (HU) /

Christian government teaching selfishness

The Hungarian government has no sense of solidarity with the rest of the EU, Népszava criticises:

“In a situation like this [the current energy crisis], solidarity within the EU is particularly important. Italy and Slovenia agreed last week that Rome will help Lljubljana if Slovenia runs out of gas. Hungary, on the other hand, has just imposed an export ban on energy sources. This proves once again that the Christian government is teaching Hungarians to be selfish.”

Jutarnji list (HR) /

Opportunistic Germany

First Germany lets Russia get away with all kinds of things because of Nord Stream 2, yet when the going gets tough it demands solidarity, writes a reproachful Jutarnji list:

“After Russia's aggression against Ukraine made the relationship [between Germany and Russia] untenable in the long term and left Germany facing an energy dilemma, its government rushed to sign agreements with the other member states regarding the sharing of existing gas reserves in the event of deliveries being cut off, citing the need for solidarity. Then, faced with the other states' lack of enthusiasm for such deals, it used its influence in the European Commission to enforce solidarity in reducing gas consumption.”

Dnevnik (BG) /

Keep the alternatives in mind

There are cheaper sources than Russian gas, Dnevnik points out:

“Spain imports liquid gas from the US as part of a long-term contract. Even including all transport and liquefaction costs, the LNG from the US still costs less than Russian gas in Hungary, and that was the case even before the war. ... But we are talking about long-term contracts for LNG here. This is the only way to get liquid gas affordably. If sold on the spot market it will cost almost as much as it would on the stock market.”