EU reaches deal to ration gas amid Russian fears

BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union governments agreed on Tuesday to ration natural gas this winter to protect against any further supply cuts by Russia as Moscow continues its invasion of Ukraine.

EU energy ministers have approved a European bill to reduce gas demand by 15% from August to March. The new legislation involves voluntary national measures to reduce gas consumption and, if they generate insufficient savings, a trigger for mandatory moves in the 27-member bloc.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen welcomed the move, saying « the EU has taken a decisive step to address the threat of a total gas shutdown by (Russian President Vladimir) Putin. » .

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s previous story follows below.

BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union governments moved closer on Tuesday to a deal on natural gas rationing this winter to protect against any further Russian supply cuts as Moscow continues its invasion of the ‘Ukraine.

EU energy ministers have been deliberating on a European bill that would force member states to cut demand for natural gas by 15% from August to March. This would involve voluntary measures to reduce gas consumption and, if they generate insufficient savings, a trigger to impose mandatory movements across the 27-nation bloc.

On Monday, Russian energy giant Gazprom said it would limit EU supply through the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline to 20% of its capacity, raising concerns that Russian President Vladimir Putin will use the gas trade to challenge the bloc’s opposition to the war in Ukraine.

« Winter is coming and we don’t know how cold it will be, » said Czech Industry Minister Jozef Sikela, whose political portfolio includes energy. « But what we know for sure is that Putin will continue to play his dirty games by abusing and blackmailing gas supplies. »

The European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, is pressing ministers to reach a deal less than a week after rushing the rationing proposal.

“We must be ready at all times for possible supply cuts from Russia,” said EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson. « We must act now. »

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February and the West protested with economic sanctions, 12 EU countries have faced halts or reductions in Russian gas supplies.

Despite agreeing to an embargo on Russian oil and coal from this year, the EU has refrained from imposing sanctions on Russian natural gas because Germany, Italy and some other Member States are highly dependent on these imports.

Disruptions to Russia’s energy trade with the EU are fueling inflation which is already at record highs in Europe and threatens to trigger a recession in the bloc even as it recovered from a pandemic-induced meltdown.

The energy shortage is also reviving decades-old political challenges for Europe in terms of policy coordination. While the EU has acquired centralized authority over monetary, trade, antitrust and agricultural policies, national sovereignty over energy matters still largely prevails.

As a sign of this, the European Commission has ruffled feathers by planning, within the framework of the proposed rationing rules, to give itself the power to decide on any switch from voluntary to compulsory actions. Any agreement between ministers could remove this provision and ensure that a decision on mandatory gas rationing would rest with EU governments.

The Associated Press


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