“The European Commission has no information from any state or private company willing to pay [for gas in rubles],” EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson said at an extraordinary meeting of EU energy ministers in Brussels.
This is another clarification in this spirit by the European Commission against the background of contradictory signals in the media about the readiness of some companies to accept the “gas for ruble” scheme, imposed unilaterally by President Vladimir Putin. The ministers gathered to clarify once again whether it is a violation of the EU sanctions against Russia, imposed in 2014, to work with Gazprom under the terms of April 1.
Almost all the ministers spoke to journalists about the situation with Bulgaria and Poland, saying that the most important thing is to have European solidarity, to seek solutions at the union level, and to understand the position of each country.
Bulgarian Energy Minister Alexander Nikolov told the Financial Times on Friday that before Gazprom’s announcement on April 26th, Bulgaria had asked an international law firm for an opinion on the Russian scheme and an assessment of all its risks. They turned out to be too big, as the signing of the annex by Bulgaria would be a drastic change in the contract, including because it will not be clear at what exchange rate the currency is converted, the minister said.
Statements by ministers entering the talks in the Belgian capital showed that there are serious differences in the approach to the situation among the 27 countries.
Anna Moskva, Poland’s energy minister, said she was proud to be on Russia’s list of “enemy states”; that the country’s gas storage facilities will be filled by the autumn, and that it will urge the EU to commit to a specific date for the start of an oil embargo by all against Russia.
Hungary has not changed its position not to supporting the gas and oil embargo, government spokesman Zoltan Kovac told Reuters this morning. Anna Moscow had said a few days ago that Hungary, Austria, and Germany were against gas sanctions. Read more: European countries are looking for something to replace Russian gas
“Germany’s position is that we need to prepare well so that we do not find ourselves in an economic situation that we cannot control. We have made a lot of progress on coal, and oil and we are doing the same with gas. Other countries need more time,” said Robert Habeck, Minister of Economy and Climate Policy. “We need to discuss a corridor between the countries’ dependence on Russia and the need to act.”
The EU will continue to pay in euros or dollars, as agreed with Gazprom, the French environment minister said. We are working on measures, including storage facilities, which will allow us to be independent of Russian gas, added Barbara Pompili.
Germany should immediately start reducing natural gas consumption in the summer, despite still receiving Russian gas without any problems. This will begin preparations for Moscow’s future response to Western sanctions over the invasion of Ukraine, according to an analysis by the Cologne Institute for Energy Research (EWI).
If Putin stops gas for Europe right now (meaning Britain plus EU countries without Cyprus Malta, Spain, and Portugal), it means cutting 459 terawatt-hours (TWh) of fuel in the warmer months and emptying it within a year. April 2023) of what has been put into gas storage so far.
The EWI took into account the effect of increased supplies of Norway and liquefied natural gas through ports in the Netherlands and Germany. If the storage facilities do not open and remain full at the current average of 33% in the next 12 months, then they will not reach 790 TWh. This is 18% of the needs between November and April (4446 TWh), as long as the winter is not very cold.
Germany, the country with the largest storage capacity, has introduced a law requiring them to be 80% full of gas by October 1st.
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