Can the emergency gas plan get the EU through the winter?

EU energy ministers have agreed on a gas emergency plan. After Russia throttled gas supplies the EU is anticipating major shortages, and particularly for Germany. The initial goal was to reduce gas consumption by 15 percent, but several opt-outs have since been conceded. This is just one of several reasons why the media has greeted the plan with scepticism.

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Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

All going according to plan for Putin

Europe's nightmare is only just beginning, the Süddeutsche Zeitung fears:

“Because our energy dependence means we need a reliable supplier. But Russia no longer wants to be reliable or stick to its contracts as it is precisely this unpredictability that fuels our nightmares. This is why the amount of gas being pumped into Nord Stream 1 is dropping, perhaps it is being increased in the 'Brotherhood' pipeline instead, or perhaps it is dropping there again and being increased in the Yamal-Europe pipeline, which has been empty for months now. Each of these pipelines ends in a different country, and each situation will provoke new rivalries, distribution battles and EU disputes. This is what Putin planned and this is what will happen.”

Magyar Hírlap (HU) /

Neither democratic nor transparent

Hungary was the only EU member state to vote against the gas plan. The pro-government daily Magyar Hírlap finds it unfair that it can still be forced to make savings:

“The ministers of the EU member states have decided that gas consumption in Europe must be reduced in view of the gas crisis. For the time being each country can do this on a voluntary basis - and that's all fair enough - but the wily decision-makers have included a clause entitled 'Union alert'. If this alert is triggered by five member states, all the others must comply with the [cutback regulations]. This means that voluntary options could turn mandatory in the blink of an eye. Isn't it beautiful, this transparent, liberal, Western democracy?”

Dagens Nyheter (SE) /

Show courage and put Russia in checkmate

Europe can beat Russia in the economic war, Dagens Nyheter believes:

“The EU must aim to impose a much more ambitious ban on [gas] imports than it has to date. It must reduce consumption radically, ideally turn off the gas completely. ... The adverse economic effects would be significant but manageable. For Russia, on the other hand, the consequences would be catastrophic. A recent study from Yale University shows that sanctions and companies pulling out have already wrought a lot more damage than Russia is willing to admit. ... It is only gas and oil exports that are preventing the Russian economy from imploding. So our consumer behaviour gives us a unique chance to bring it crashing down - if we only dare to turn Putin's most important weapon against him.”

Die Welt (DE) /

Show solidarity with Germany!

The daily Die Welt says fairness dictates that other countries help Berlin now:

“On a European level Germany has assumed responsibility for others again and again in recent years. German tax payers have contributed dozens of billions of euros to bail out insolvent euro countries. After the outbreak of the pandemic, the German and French governments initiated the 800 billion euro recovery fund, with Germany providing the largest guarantees. ... Now it's time for other EU countries to show solidarity with Germany.”

Dnevnik (SI) /

Huge cracks in the bloc

EU unity is crumbling even before things get really serious, much to Dnevnik's dismay:

“Orbán banned gas exports to other member states and has already rushed to Moscow to secure new additional quantities of gas for his own country. A variety of different energy considerations are making the southern members somewhat reluctant to accept the proposed cutbacks in consumption. None of this bodes well: the EU is divided over the proposed solidarity even before Putin has even turned off the gas tap.”

The Economist (GB) /

A typical EU compromise

The plan won't resolve any potential supply problems, The Economist argues:

“It was a typical EU compromise, forged in long negotiations and riddled with exemptions and concessions. ... The EU's energy ministers are essentially kicking the gas canister down the road. The 15 percent target is voluntary ... There are many carve-outs: for countries not directly connected to Europe's network of gas pipelines, for those that have already cut their consumption, and those using a lot of gas as feedstock to make fertiliser and the like. If the coming winter is mild, the EU may scrape by. But if it is cold the bloc will have to prove that it can hold together when times are hard.”

De Telegraaf (NL) /

Putin pitching countries against each other

De Telegraaf is also sceptical about the many exemptions and opt-outs:

“There is zero certainty for the coming winter - giving Putin all the more leeway to play countries off against each other. The bottom line is that the disunited energy ministers will have to renegotiate as soon as there is a gas shortage. This raises the question of whether the EU is the right forum to solve this crisis. The Benelux countries, Germany and Denmark have had their own gas consultation going for years. Must decisions be made here if solidarity in the EU is lacking? ... Experts have been warning for months: Europe is not prepared for another winter like the last one.”

El Mundo (ES) /

Spain will benefit from exemptions

The plan is a success, El Mundo rejoices:

“Spain was able to push through some of its arguments. ... It's true that the tone adopted by the prime minister [Pedro Sánchez] and his deputy [Energy Minister Teresa Ribera] was not the most appropriate. ... To talk of making a 'disproportionate sacrifice' and - without mentioning Germany - argue that 'unlike others we Spaniards have not lived beyond our means energy-wise' is a breach of etiquette when addressing the highest levels of the EU. ... In the end, Spain will be able to benefit from the exemptions thanks to its energy diversification (almost 50 percent green energy), its gas exports to member states (20 percent of its reserves), and its gas reserves of 80 percent. ... Europe has united, though not without difficulty.”