EU crisis meeting on Russian gas
Energy ministers from European Union (EU) countries are holding an emergency meeting today to agree a common position on Russia’s demand to pay for its gas supplies in rubles if it cuts them off.
Gazprom, the Russian energy giant, last week halted gas supplies to Bulgaria and Poland after the two European countries refused to make payments on the terms demanded by Moscow.
While Sofia and Warsaw had already planned to halt Russian gas imports by the end of the year and said they could compensate for Gazprom’s supply freeze, the decision raised fears other EU countries were in the same situation, including Germany, which was high is dependent on Russian gas.
The issue also threatens to open breaches in the united front the EU has shown against Russia since the start of its offensive in Ukraine, while differences between the countries of the common bloc remain over the path to gas imports.
With many European companies contractually required to make payments for Russian gas this month, it has become urgent for the EU27 to clarify whether maintaining such purchases breaches European sanctions imposed on Moscow.
Brussels began considering a new directive after several countries including Bulgaria, Denmark, Greece, Poland and Slovakia asked for it.
Russia supplies 40% of the EU’s gas needs, a dependency that underpinned Germany’s and other countries’ reluctance to abruptly halt Russian energy imports. Diplomats say the EU should work towards a ban on Russian oil imports by the end of the year.
A new package of sanctions against Moscow proposed by the European Commission will be debated at a meeting of EU ambassadors on Wednesday.
Energy ministers on Monday will discuss the need to quickly secure non-Russian gas supply alternatives and build reserves amid looming shortages that could plunge European countries into recession.