The European Union has agreed to a plan to drastically reduce their natural gas consumption in the event Russia cuts off its supply.
The deal reached by Brussels’ energy ministers will see member states reduce their consumption by 15%.
The deal was done on a voluntary basis and not the obligatory one that the EU originally envisaged.
This idea was met with resistance by a number national governments and led to a new compromise.
It will be mandatory in the case of a “Union Alert”, which will need to be approved by a majority.
Although the agreement was immediately hailed as a diplomatic victory, it also included a number of exceptions and opt outs.
These exemptions include countries with a weak or inaccessible power grid to the EU’s gas pipeline system.
The targets would be reduced for countries that export gas or have gas storage facilities almost full. Certain industries will be exempted from the rules.
Some diplomats have questioned the effectiveness of the exemptions pattern, with one saying it was “a good idea without teeth”.
These doubts were dispelled by Kadri SIMSON, the EU’s energy commissar, who stated: “Even if all exemptions were used in their entirety, we could achieve demand reductions that would help us safely get through an average winter.”
Several Russian suggestions have put European nerves on edge. Russia is rumored to be cutting the supply it pumps through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline that runs into northern Germany.
Recently, the pipeline was closed for maintenance. The pipeline has been reopened, but it is still below its full capacity. On Wednesday, the supply will be further reduced.
Russia receives enormous amounts of money from Europe to supply natural gas. However, it is aware that it could cause economic and social problems by turning off the water taps.
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The EU, and especially Germany, are now trying to get rid of their dependence on Russian fossil fuels.
Jozef Sikela, Czech deputy prime Minister, announced the decision. Robert Habeck, Germany’s foreign minister, said Russia “will never split us”.
One country opposed the plan, in fact.
Hungary has a strong relationship to Russia and imports 80% from Russia. It criticized the plan as “unjustifiable”, unenforceable, unenforceable, and harmful.