Russia’s Gas War Threatens EU Unity

The EU has responded by proposing strict gas rationing on all 27 member states. However, the strategy has generated much controversy and resistance among its southernmost members.

4 min read
Russia’s Gas War Threatens EU Unity

Russian gas supplier Gazprom announced on Tuesday that there will be further reductions  in exports to Western Europe, with the Nord Stream 1 pipeline pumping only 20 percent of  its capacity from Wednesday. The energy company stated that the disruption is due to  ongoing maintenance work, but the move is being seen as part of a larger political strategy  that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky calls an “overt gas war”.

For the European Union, which relies on Russia for approximately 40 percent of its gas  supplies, this means a harsher winter ahead with the loss of its primary gas link.

The energy crisis facing the bloc now is intended to relax sanctions imposed on Russia since  it invaded Ukraine back in February. But Russian leader Vladimir Putin is not only keen on  alleviating the economic catastrophe affecting his country, but also hoping to undermine the  solidarity between EU member states.

This was an outcome which the European Commission had already braced for, developing a  proposal of a 15 percent gas reduction across all 27 states earlier this month. However, their  plans to combat Russia’s challenge have been met with much resistance. Although  Denmark, Luxembourg and the Netherlands are on board with the motion, other nations see  it as far too extreme.

Brussels’ strategy immediately sparked an outcry from its Southern members, with Spain,  Portugal, Cyprus, and Greece refusing to implement the measures. Their sentiments are not  entirely unjustified—in comparison with Germany or Italy, they depend much less on  Russian gas, making the reduction quota irrelevant to them.

However, these nations’ protests are not simply because of Brussels’ oversight, but because  the current energy problem has revealed many weaknesses and inequalities within the  European Union.

Iberia has often been isolated from much of Western Europe’s energy distribution system,  adding to their governments’ disapproval of such plans. João Galamba, Portugal’s Secretary  for the Environment and Energy, went as far as claiming that his country “had no links” to the  bloc’s gas network. Thus, they should not be shouldering the burden of a system they hardly  benefitted from.

There are also fewer pipelines running between France and Spain compared with other  member states. This means that the Iberian peninsula has generally been more independent when it comes to organising their gas supplies, explaining why they are frustrated at being told to adjust their energy usage.

More controversially, the energy dilemma caused by the Russo-Ukrainian War has  generated concerns over who takes precedence at the decision-making table. Brussels’  capacity to draft these plan without consulting its members has left several governments  questioning its authority.

‘We will defend European values,’ announced Spanish Ecological Transition Minister Teresa  Ribera, “but we won’t accept a sacrifice regarding an issue that we have not even been  allowed to give our opinion on”.

In dealing with an issue as urgent as an energy crisis and economic downturn, it is essential  that EU authorities take counsel from their member states. This is not just to pay lip service  to their autonomy, but also to find terms which all parties can agree on. Now, countries like  Spain are frustrated that their input has been ignored.

Dissenting states are also concerned that the energy-saving strategy favours economic juggernaut, Germany. It is the nation most likely to suffer from the pipeline closure given its  reliance on Russian energy, with a projected decline in their GDP by 5.9 percent by the end  of 2023. But the negative growth is also due to Germany’s position as a gas transit nation,  with it normally re-exporting natural gas to countries like Poland and the Czech Republic.  With Europe’s foremost energy link affected, Germany faces greater revenue loss.

Berlin has been coy about Brussels’ plans gearing towards the prevention of their own  economic contraction. President of the European Commission Ursula Von der Leyen stated  that it is “important that all member states curb demand (…) and share with those members  that are more affected”, noticeably omitting any mention of which states or state would be  most impacted.

The German government is well aware that they are in the middle of Putin’s firing line when  it comes to gas war. Last year around 55 percent of its gas originated from Russia. Quietly,  they are among the first to launch campaigns encouraging citizens to reduce their energy  consumption, from taking shorter showers to turning off the air conditioning.

Had Germany had been more explicit about their troubles by openly appealing for  assistance, then other countries may have been more willing to assist them. Instead, they  have allowed their predicament to be inaccurately portrayed as a union-wide one, much to  the disappointment and confusion of other governments.

The first tangible effects of the Russian pipeline closure will of course be economic. But the  real test for the European Union will be how long they can cope with the political rift that has  taken root due to the crisis. Putin may have opened the door for such tensions to arise, but it  is clear that the European Union already suffered with internal problems surrounding their  energy system, authority, and crisis-management.

Member states such as Italy and Bulgaria are yet to decide what position they will take on  the proposed gas rationing. Regardless of which stance they adopt, the European Union is  markedly more divided today than it was before.

Bibliography 87374034 support keep-dwindling restricts-energy-2022-7?r=US&IR=T pipeline/a-62588620?dicbo=v2-b78feb3aa64ec127904e8a8d5edd5178&maca=en-AS content-outbrain crisis/a-62582449 2022-07-21/

Related Articles

Background of the Russia-Ukraine War
2 min read
Consequences of Being an Anti-War Russian
1 min read


🎉 You've successfully subscribed to Youth In Politics!