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28/09/2016

Tusk warns Merkel against Russian gas addiction

Energy

Tusk warns Merkel against Russian gas addiction

Donald Tusk_Picnik.jpg

Poland's prime minister Donald Tusk said yesterday (10 March) he would ask German Chancellor Angela Merkel to work to reduce European dependence on Russian gas to avert "potential aggressive steps by Russia in the future".

Angela Merkel will visit Poland on Wednesday to discuss the crisis in Ukraine, where Russia has effectively taken control of the southern Crimean peninsula. Events there have highlighted European reliance on Russian oil and gas.

Ukraine is a major gas transit nation for supplies from Russia to the European Union (EU), which relies on Russia for over a quarter of its gas.

"Germany's dependence on Russian gas may effectively decrease Europe's sovereignty. I have no doubts about that," Prime Minister Donald Tusk told a news conference.

"Increasingly more expensive energy in Europe due to exorbitant climate and environmental ambitions may also mean greater dependence in Russian energy sources…Hence, I will talk (to Merkel) primarily about how Germany is able to correct some economic actions so that dependence on Russian gas doesn't paralyse Europe when it needs…a decisive stance."

Germany has been one of the strongest proponents of increasing the share of renewable energy sources in Europe. Poland gets nearly all of its energy from domestically produced coal, and has opposed these efforts in the past.

"The question of Ukraine is a question of EU's future, EU's safety, and a correction of EU's energy policy," Tusk said.

"We will not be able to efficiently fend off potential aggressive steps by Russia in the future, if so many European countries are dependent on Russian gas deliveries or wade into such dependence," he added.

Poland is the largest central European economy and has played a role in diplomatic efforts of the European Union in the worst stand-off between the West and Russia since the end of the Cold War.

Four central European countries have already asked the U.S. Congress to make it easier for them to import natural gas from the United States and reduce their dependence on supplies from Russia.

Last year, Russia's gas export giant Gazprom supplied EU and Turkey with a record 162 billion cubic metres of gas, of which 86 bcm was delivered via Ukraine.

Gazprom issued a veiled warning last week that it could stop shipping gas to Ukraine over unpaid bills, reprising the brief disruption in deliveries during a dispute between Russia and Ukraine during the winter of 2009.

European Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger said he did not expect Russia to switch off gas supplies to Europe over the Ukraine crisis. If no more gas flowed through Ukraine, it would affect 14% of European gas consumption, he added.

Positions

Gas Infrastructure Europe (GIE) published today (11 March) a statement, informing of the gas situation in Europe. GIE is an association representing the interests of European natural gas infrastructure operators active in natural gas transmission, storage and LNG regasification

“The supply of natural gas is robust in Europe. Up to now, the recent developments in Ukraine have not affected gas flows to European countries and the level of gas in stock is high for this period of the year”, the statement reads.

However, GIE says that the situation between Russia and Ukraine raises the question of European security of gas supply.

A potential disruption on the Ukrainian route could be mitigated via re-routing to other supply routes from Russia, or from other export countries (Norway, etc.), including LNG from many countries, GIE says [read more]. 

Background

The Visegrad 4 group, which includes Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia have asked the US Congress to make it easier for them to import natural gas from the United States and reduce their dependence on supplies from Russia [more].

Last year, Russia's Gazprom supplied the European Union and Turkey with a record 162 billion cubic metres of gas, of which 86 bcm was supplied through the Ukraine. Gazprom issued a thinly veiled warning on Friday that it could stop shipping gas to Ukraine over unpaid bills.

Supplies were briefly disrupted in 2009 during a dispute between Russia and Ukraine, through which much of the Russian gas is piped. Central Europeans fear they could be under threat again due to an escalation of tensions between Russia and the West over Russia's seizure of Crimea.

But analysts have said that US natural gas would not reach European markets before 2016, and thus could not provide an alternative in the current Ukrainian crisis.

Further Reading