EU prepares for Russia to cut gas supply due to sanctions | European | News and current affairs from across the continent | DW

What rules apply in the EU in the event of a gas shortage?

If Russia does not resume gas supply after the completion of maintenance work on the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline, the European Union would bring into force its 2017 security of supply regulations. Under SOS, all EU Member States should have emergency plans and a three-phase alarm system. However, not all governments have done their homework in this regard.

EU Member States are part of regional groups that share common risks. One group is made up of the Baltic States and Finland, countries that have so far been totally dependent on Russian gas and have already partly found alternatives.

Portugal, Spain and France are in another group. These countries only receive small quantities of Russian gas and would not be directly affected by a supply stoppage.

In a crisis situation, the Member States would be obliged to help each other in solidarity, ie to supply themselves with gas and to exchange information. In addition, EU member states are required to fill their gas storage facilities to at least 80% until the start of the heating season in autumn. The problem identified by many experts and politicians is that the loss of the largest gas supplier, Russia, makes mutual deliveries or filling storage facilities extremely difficult.

What is Germany’s role in the EU gas market?

Germany is the largest importer of Russian gas in Europe and an important transit country for the pipeline transported via Nord Stream and other gas pipelines. But what would happen if Germany no longer received Russian gas? Should Germany then transfer the gas received from Norway or the Netherlands, for example, to other EU member states when it itself suffers from a shortage?

German Economy Minister Robert Habeck is currently negotiating solidarity agreements with neighboring countries. These agreements will regulate supply in emergency situations. “We will have to look at all the possible scenarios and exactly what will happen in which situation – i.e. when a gas supply interruption is to be officially announced, in which countries, at what stages, so that we let’s know exactly what’s going on,” Habeck said during a recent visit to Czech Industry and Trade Minister Josef Sikela.

Habeck negotiated a treaty with the Czech government. There had to be a common administration of shortages, he said, so that individual countries were not unduly affected. The Czech Republic, for example, obtains its natural gas almost exclusively via pipelines in Germany. Poland also gets its gas supply via Germany and the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline, and Switzerland is entirely dependent on gas supplies from Germany.

Will gas supply solidarity work in the EU?

The SOS Regulation stipulates that gas should only be offered to Member States which have declared an emergency and made every effort to reduce their consumption. According to the regulation, the purchase and sale of gas would still be carried out by partly private and partly public gas suppliers, which is a complex procedure in times of crisis.

Gas price caps, as proposed by Italy, have so far been rejected by the European Union as counterproductive. Bulgaria, a country boycotted by Gazprom, still transfers Russian gas via its Turk Stream gas pipeline to Serbia and Hungary. Could this continue in times of crisis?

Hungary has declared an emergency situation and bans all energy exports, which means that it no longer adheres to the principle of solidarity.

“Not sure that’s smart for a landlocked country with less than 3 bcm of storage and 10 bcm of annual gas consumption,” wrote Georg Zachmann, senior energy and climate policy researcher at Brussels-based think tank Bruegel. . on Twitter.

Pipes of the Gas Interconnection PolandLithuania gas pipeline in Jauniunai, Lithuania

The Gas Interconnection PolandLithuania (GIPL) pipeline in Jauniunai, Lithuania began commercial operation on May 1

The European Commission had, for a long time, asked member states to conclude mutual agreements on solidarity supplies because Brussels does not have a central control mechanism on quotas – or something comparable – in force. So far, Germany has signed three agreements: one with Denmark, one with Austria, one with the Czech Republic. In addition, there are other agreements between Lithuania and Latvia, Estonia and Latvia, Finland and Estonia, and Italy and Slovenia.

With regard to gas suppliers, another complex issue is ownership, which often crosses borders in the internal market of the European Union. The Finnish state, for example, partly owns Germany’s largest gas supplier, Uniper. So the question is which government would come to the rescue if private companies ran into financial difficulties.

The main problem cannot simply be solved by coordination between member states or by plans submitted by the European Commission, said Markus Ferber, a Christian Democrat who represents Germany in the European Parliament: simply not enough gas available. “It won’t get us through the winter,” Ferber said.

What are Member States doing to avoid a supply crisis?

The search for alternatives is ongoing, under considerable pressure. Germany and the Baltic countries have bet on liquid gas imported from the Middle East or the United States to be partially stored in floating terminals to be built. Italy gets its supplies from Algeria and Azerbaijan. Additional gas from Norway, the UK, Algeria and the Netherlands is acquired at ever-increasing prices.

The European Commission estimates that this will not be enough to replace Russian gas in the short term. Consequently, Brussels advocates energy savings and lower gas consumption in certain public establishments. Habeck recently suggested that it might not necessarily be wise to prioritize private households over businesses in dire emergencies.

Will there be changes in European regulations?

The European Commission will present an emergency plan next week. It stipulates that in case of doubt, the production of electricity in gas-fired power stations must take priority over the heating and cooking of private consumers. Industry will, at this stage at least, have a secondary priority.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen watches Kadri Simson, Tarek el-Molla (C) and Karine Elharrar sign a trilateral natural gas deal in Cairo

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen watches as representatives of the EU, Egypt and Israel sign a trilateral natural gas deal

According to Germany’s economy ministry, EU rules will need to be changed because they were established for short-term supply disruptions in individual countries, as opposed to large-scale shortages. The European Commission also intends to stipulate that public and commercial buildings will be heated to a maximum of 19 degrees Celsius (66 F). A European platform for the joint purchase of gas has been set up but is not yet operational.

According to the European Commission’s emergency plan, energy savings by households and businesses will be able to offset around a third of the gas shortage caused by Russia. But what about the remaining two-thirds? EU energy ministers will discuss this at a special summit at the end of July.

This article was originally written in German.