The energy crisis has Europe firmly in its grip. But not all EU countries are equally dependent on Russian gas. Some prepared well years ago, while others tremble before winter. An overview.
Many states currently fear that the Kremlin could turn off the gas supply completely in retaliation for Western sanctions. This could become clear as early as this week when maintenance work on the Nord Stream 1 pipeline is completed.
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However, not all EU countries would be equally affected by an impending gas shortage. While some are desperate to break free from Russia’s energy dependency, others have long been better prepared. This is what the EU countries have planned:
Italy is heavily dependent on Russian gas and, like many others, is currently trying to free itself from Putin’s shackles. Other suppliers are coming into focus – and that in the middle of a turbulent government crisis. Prime Minister Mario Draghi traveled to Algiers after his failed bid to resign and ahead of his expected report to the Italian Parliament. Algeria is an important partner for Italy. Now it is to replace Russia as the largest gas supplier.
France’s energy dependency on Russia is much better off than Germany’s, but here, too, people are preparing for difficult times. The subject of gas did not stop before the French national holiday on July 14th. In a television interview, President Emmanuel Macron accused Russia of using energy as a “weapon of war”. He announced a government plan to use energy more sparingly: “We must prepare to get by without Russian gas.” According to estimates, France currently gets less than 20 percent of its gas imports from Russia. However, not using this gas means “that the summer and the beginning of autumn are likely to be very tough,” Macron said.
Lithuania made the jump in time and freed itself from Putin’s gas. “Until 2014, we were 100 percent dependent on Russian gas,” Linas Kilda from Lithuanian energy company KN told BILD. But the Balts recognized the danger and looked for an alternative. This is a liquid gas system. This is appropriately called “Independence” and is floating in the port of Klaipeda. “With the liquid gas plant, which went into operation in October 2014 after three years of preparation, we are now in a position to even supply neighboring countries,” reports Kilda.
Latvia, for example, recently banned gas imports from Russia. The Saeima parliament passed legal changes to the Energy Act on Thursday. The EU country now gets its gas mainly from Lithuania. Latvia now also wants to do the same as its neighbor and is planning to build its own liquid gas terminal. In order to ensure the energy supply, the Latvian gas network and storage operator must build up a strategic gas reserve according to the parliamentary decision. For this purpose, the underground Latvian gas storage facility in Incukalns must be replenished annually by August 31 at the latest with the amount of gas required by connected consumers in the period from October 1 to April 30 of the following year.
Spending the winter in cold apartments – Greek residents don’t have to worry about that. The Greek tourism minister even called on the Germans to spend the winter in his country. “We will wait for you here,” Minister Vasilis Kikilias told Thursday’s “Bild”. “For autumn and winter it would be a great pleasure for us Greeks to welcome German pensioners who want to experience a ‘Mediterranean winter’ with Greek hospitality, mild weather and quality services.”
The mayor of the port city of Chania on the Greek island of Crete, Panagiotis Simandirakis, made a similar statement. “We invite every German who wants to come to us this winter to live here – away from the crises,” he told the “Bild”. Crete is very suitable “to survive a crisis winter”. There is no need for heating in the house here. No German will have to freeze in Greece, said the mayor.
Those who are on good terms with Russia – such as Serbia, Hungary or neighboring Belarus – can traditionally count on friendly prizes. Prime Minister Viktor Orban maintains a good relationship with Putin. Even after the start of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, Orban had emphasized that Moscow would reliably supply the natural gas on which Hungary depends for around 85 percent. But the rude awakening followed.
Last week the Hungarian government declared an energy emergency. In order to deal with the crisis, the Hungarian government is planning, among other things, to have households with above-average energy consumption pay the market price for gas in the future – instead of the lower, state-subsidised tariffs that have been customary for consumers up to now. Chief of Staff Gergely Gulyas also said last Wednesday that Hungary would increase domestic energy generation opportunities. The company’s own natural gas production should therefore increase from 1.5 billion to two billion cubic meters. In addition, energy exports will be banned in the future and the country’s only nuclear power plant is to increase its production. The measures are expected to come into effect in August.
Slovakia and the Czech Republic are in a precarious situation when it comes to gas supplies. Up until now, the Czech Republic has been 100 percent dependent on Russian gas, while Slovakia has received 85 percent of its gas supplies from Russia. Neighboring Poland should now help out. “Like Austria, Slovakia or Hungary, the Czech Republic does not have access to the sea,” Vaclav Bartuska, Czech Ambassador for Energy Security, told Deutsche Welle. “Therefore, any solution for our future gas supply will depend on cooperation with those neighboring countries that have such access, be it Poland or Germany or others.”
In the meantime there are already talks between Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic about LNG deliveries. These could be loaded via Polish terminals. When it comes to gas, Poland, unlike Germany, has been pursuing a policy of making itself independent of Russia for years. Among other things, the country relies on its own production, imports of liquefied natural gas and gas imports from Norway via the future Baltic Sea pipeline Baltic Pipe.
Meanwhile, Germany and the Czech Republic are planning a joint natural gas solidarity agreement. Federal Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) and Czech Industry and Trade Minister Jozef Sikula signed a declaration of intent in Prague last week. “We help each other with the gas supply and will also do the same from Germany for the Czech Republic,” said Habeck about the cooperation within Europe.
Spain typically gets only about 10 percent of its gas needs from Russia. With a third, the USA is the largest gas supplier in the EU country. This puts it in a good position in an EU comparison. This is also due to the fact that Spain has six of its own liquid gas terminals. The country is already acting as a gas distribution point for the whole of Europe, even if the connections still need to be expanded. But new projects are already being planned. Including a pipeline to France and one to Italy.