Germany will not support the introduction of a ban on imports of Russian natural gas into the EU.
This was stated by Finance Minister Christian Lindner on Monday, rejecting calls for sanctions to be extended after cases of harassment and killings of civilians in Ukraine became clear.
“We are dealing with a criminal war,” Lindner said ahead of talks with EU counterparts in Brussels on Wednesday. “It is clear that we must end all economic ties with Russia as soon as possible. We must plan tough sanctions, but gas cannot be replaced in the short term. We would do more harm to ourselves than to them.”
Lindner suggested that instead of a general ban on all energy imports from Russia, the EU could consider oil, coal, and gas separately, as alternative suppliers for each of the fossil fuels could be found at different speeds. Russia provides 40% of Europe’s gas needs, 46% of coal, and 27% of crude oil.
Earlier on Monday, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia announced they were suspending imports of Russian gas, and before that Poland said it was in talks with Norway to completely replace imports from Gazprom.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s partners in the ruling coalition disagree on the ban on Russian gas amid growing pressure to expand sanctions against Russia.
Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht said on Sunday that the European Union should discuss a ban on Russian gas imports after Ukrainian and European officials accused Russian forces of committing atrocities near Kyiv, raising hopes that Germany would reconsider its veto. Economy Minister Robert Habeck has said he opposes an immediate ban on imports of Russian fossil fuels.
“We are working every day to create the preconditions and steps for an embargo,” Habeck told a news conference Monday, adding that the approach “hurts Putin daily.”
Marcus Söder, the conservative prime minister of Bavaria, criticized the government for what he said was an ideological focus on switching to wind and solar only while pushing for plans to close the last nuclear power plants this year.
“We need five nuclear power plants for another five years and a pipeline from southern Europe to southern Germany. We need to look at fracking,” he said.
Russia was originally conceived as a “bridge” that would feed the economy between the end of nuclear energy and its complete replacement with renewables, and the European Commission has proposed that it be declared a transitional fuel for the Green Pact. However, the war in Ukraine changed the mood in parts of Europe. Germany, which under pressure has given up on licensing the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, believes that refusing to import Russian fuel will do more harm to Berlin than to the Kremlin in the short term.
Economic analysts say Germany will face a sharp recession if it stops importing Russian energy.
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