Europe seeks compromise deal on gas use as Russia cuts supply

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BRUSSELS — European Union countries are set to approve a weakened emergency proposal on Tuesday to reduce their gas demand, with opt-out options allowing them to follow different national paths to prepare for Russian supply cuts.

Europe is facing increased gas shortages from Wednesday, when Russia’s Gazprom announced it would cut flows through the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline to Germany to a fifth of its capacity.

With a dozen EU countries already facing cuts in Russian supplies, Brussels is urging countries to prepare by saving gas and storing it for the winter, lest Russia completely cut off supplies. stream in retaliation for Western sanctions over its war with Ukraine.

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Energy ministers are meeting to approve a proposal asking all EU countries to reduce their gas consumption by 15% from August to March. The European Commission, which proposed the measure last week, said it would make the cuts binding in the event of a supply emergency.

Member states resisted the plan and revamped it to exempt and reduce gas cuts for many countries and industries. Ministers from Spain, Estonia, Greece and Poland were among those optimistic that a deal could be struck on Tuesday.

German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said a deal would show Russian President Vladimir Putin that Europe remained united in the face of Moscow’s latest gas cuts.

“You will not divide us,” Habeck said.

Russia’s Gazprom blamed its latest cut on the need to shut down a turbine – a reason dismissed by EU energy chief Kadri Simson, who called the move “politically motivated”.

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Russia has declared itself to be a reliable energy supplier.

He also claims that his invasion of Ukraine, which began on February 24, is a “special military operation”.


The latest EU proposal, seen by Reuters, would exempt countries such as Ireland and Malta that are not connected to the gas networks of other EU countries from the 15% gas cut requirement.

Countries that meet an EU target to fill gas storage by August could face lower targets – softening cuts for around a dozen states, including Germany and Italy, on the basis of current storage levels.

Countries can also exempt gas they use in critical industries, such as energy-intensive steel, from the target, while those exporting gas to other EU countries can cut by 8 points percent their demand reduction target.

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The EU plan has tested the countries’ solidarity, with Greece, Poland and Spain among those opposing mandatory gas cuts – albeit for different reasons.

Spain, which does not depend on Russian gas, said reducing its own demand would not help other countries because it lacks the infrastructure capacity to share its reserve gas.

“Everyone understands that when someone asks for help, you have to help. Help can take different forms, but I believe the spirit of collaboration will prevail,” said Spanish Energy Minister Teresa Ribera.

Polish Climate Minister Anna Moskwa said the latest proposal would not impose any constraints on the use of gas in Poland and opposed the idea that a country should reduce its use of industrial gas to help other states facing shortages.

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With a wide range of waivers now in the proposal, some EU diplomats have said it may not save enough gas for the winter.

Although governments, including Germany, Europe’s largest gas consumer, have stepped up energy-saving measures, EU countries have only reduced their combined gas consumption by 5% , despite months of soaring prices and dwindling Russian supplies.

“Fifteen percent probably won’t be enough given what the Russians have just announced,” Irish Environment Minister Eamon Ryan said.

Russia supplied 40% of the EU’s gas before its invasion of Ukraine in late February.

The draft proposal would also require a majority of countries to trigger the binding gas cuts, after many opposed the Commission’s initial proposal that it would have the final say.

(Reporting by Kate Abnett, Philip Blenkinsop, Robin Emmott, Marine Strauss, Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Philip Blenkinsop, Matthew Lewis and Barbara Lewis)



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