Last week, the EU Commission presented its gas emergency plan. This includes a 15 percent reduction in gas consumption in the EU countries in the period from August to March and aims to increase independence from Russian gas. The EU energy ministers are to approve this at a special summit tomorrow, Tuesday.
But the emphasis is on “should”, because the project could actually fail for the time being, since some of the 27 EU member states are not satisfied with the content of the points. This was revealed to some unnamed diplomats familiar with the negotiations between EU countries in an interview with “Welt”.
“It’s a really difficult subject,” said one diplomat. “Even if we don’t get an agreement, just a constructive discussion and things move in the right direction on Tuesday, that would still be a success.” Another diplomat from an EU member state behind the Commission’s plan is voting meanwhile clearer words: “The thing will fail.”
There is an easy way to reduce electricity and gas costs. Comparing gas and electricity prices is extremely straightforward.
In particular, the planned obligation to save gas is heating up tempers. It provides that Brussels can dictate binding savings targets should the member states not voluntarily save enough gas and thereby provoke a worsening supply situation. Countries like Malta, Cyprus and Ireland, which are not connected to the European gas grid anyway, are met with a lack of understanding.
Spain, which is also hardly anchored in the EU gas market, is also protesting: “Unlike other countries, we Spaniards have not lived beyond our means in the energy sector,” said the responsible minister to “Welt”. Madrid is not willing to make “disproportionate sacrifices” in terms of gas savings – especially because the Commission did not involve Spain in the drafting of the plan.
The plan by the EU Commission, which Ursula von der Leyen (CDU) heads, is also met with resistance for another reason. Countries from southern and eastern Europe in particular suspect that the project is aimed in particular at saving the German economy. “In many member countries there is the impression that the plan is only intended to help Germany,” explained one diplomat. This is particularly the case in countries that groaned under German austerity policies during the euro crisis.
In the face of such headwinds, the diplomats finally felt compelled to revise the plan last week. The Czech Republic, as the new holder of the EU Council Presidency and coordinator of the negotiations between the member states, already presented a new version to the EU ambassadors on Friday. The most important point: A change in the controversial obligation to save gas. According to the Czech proposal, the EU Commission should still be able to suggest savings. However, the member states should decide for themselves whether this will become an obligation.
This would allow EU countries, which have very different views on gas saving, ranging from demanding higher savings targets (Germany and the Netherlands) to sticking to lower savings targets (Poland, Hungary), to best represent their interests. Even if these run counter to the idea of European energy solidarity, for which EU Commissioner von der Leyen is campaigning. She had advocated “that all member states curb demand, that everyone save more and share with those members who are more affected”. Tomorrow’s summit of EU energy ministers will show to what extent the ideas of the EU Commission also correspond to those of the EU countries.