Poland calls for EU action to end Russia’s energy stranglehold

Donald Tusk. Warsaw, March 2014. [Kancelaria Prezesa Rady Ministrów/Flickr]

The EU must create an energy union to secure its gas supply, because its current dependence on Russian energy makes Europe weak, Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk wrote in an article in the Financial Times.

Russia, which provides around one third of the EU's oil and gas, sent shockwaves through the international community with its military intervention and annexation of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula in March.

The action prompted the United States and its European allies to begin imposing sanctions on President Vladimir Putin's inner circle, and to threaten to penalise key sectors of Russia's economy if Russia escalates tensions with Ukraine.

An international agreement to avert wider conflict in Ukraine was faltering on Monday, with pro-Moscow separatist gunmen showing no sign of surrendering government buildings they seized in the east of the country.

"Regardless of how the stand-off over Ukraine develops, one lesson is clear: excessive dependence on Russian energy makes Europe weak," Tusk wrote in the article.

He noted that the EU was creating a banking union, with a single supervisor, and a single resolution mechanism and fund to close down failing institutions.

The EU was also already jointly buying uranium for its nuclear power plants. The approach to Russian gas should be the same, he said.

"I therefore propose an energy union. It will return the European Community to its roots," he said.

Such a union should be based on several elements, he said, the first of which would be the creation of a single European body that would buy gas for the whole 28-nation bloc.

Another would be that if one or more EU countries were threatened with being cut off from gas supplies, the others would help them through "solidarity mechanisms".

More gas storage, links

The EU must also help finance, even up to 75% of the value of such projects, gas storage capacity and gas links in countries which are now most dependent on Russian gas sold by the state-owned Russian gas monopoly Gazprom.

"Today, at least 10 EU member states depend on a single supplier - Gazprom - for more than half of their consumption. Some are wholly dependent on Russia's state-controlled gas giant," Tusk said.

The fourth element was the full use of the EU's existing fossil fuels, including coal and shale gas.

"In the EU's eastern states, Poland among them, coal is synonymous with energy security. No nation should be forced to extract minerals but none should be prevented from doing so - as long as it is done in a sustainable way," Tusk said.

The next element of the energy union would be to sign agreements to buy gas from exporters outside Europe - like the United States or Australia. It could be transported to Europe by ship in liquefied form, Tusk said.

Finally the EU should strengthen the existing Energy Community of the EU and eight of its eastern neighbours, created in 2005 to extend the European gas market eastward.

"True, this will require Europe's governments to take a unified position. But such feats of co-ordination have been achieved before," Tusk said.

European leaders already agreed in March to accelerate their quest for more secure energy supplies in response to Moscow's annexation of Crimea and asked the executive European Commission to draw up detailed proposals by June on how to do that.

The EU has made progress in improving its energy security since gas crises in 2006 and 2009, when rows over unpaid bills between Kiev and Moscow led to the disruption of gas exports to western Europe. But so far, EU reliance on imported oil and gas, especially from Russia, has been rising, not falling.

EU statistics office Eurostat's energy dependence indicator, documenting the extent to which EU relies on imports, reported that imports climbed to 65.8% in 2012 from 63.4% in 2009.

The share of Russian gas rose to around 30 percent from 22 percent in 2010, while Russia's oil imports accounted for around 35 percent of EU use. 

  • 26-27 June: EU summit will discuss Commission's proposals for reducing energy dependence from Russia
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an european's picture

I can only recommend to create at least a confederated Energy Union because we here in Europe have to be independent and thinking that we can operate together, we are able to take our needed energy resource ourselves !
We don't need to be dependent from Russos !
Logically Donald Tusk has right !

El Pluribus Unum

Gerry's picture

Of course Tusk is right. Europe needs a common energy policy aimed at achieving energy independence. This policy needs to explore all resources including nuclear and hydraulic fracturing. It needs to properly set out the costs, benefits, subsidies and other problems associated with generation methods. It then needs to put forward a plan to connect it all together in one supergrid with a single supervisor acting with a single resolution mechanism, and finetune that grid so that there is sufficient redundancy in all sectors. I have no doubt that this will lead to much lower energy prices then today, apart from a guaranteed security of supply. This is the only way to compete with Gazprom.

Mike Parr's picture

Jumping Jack Tusk it's a gas gas gas

Pathetic - Tusk's answer is more fossil fuel from different sources - no consideration of reneweables because
a) Tusk thinks they are more expensive (they are not)
b) Tusk and his mates take the view that climate change does not exist

Up until the Russians cut up rough over the Ukraine Tusk was all in favour of Poland doing its own thing with respect to energy - now he wants EU action - the guy is consistent in one thing - he is consistently 100% hypocritical - what an utter & total arse - perhaps Poland should be turfed out of the EU - push em back into the tender embrace of the Russians.

an european's picture

@ Mike
On other Topic Gazprom under Putin's scrutiny is acting like a corrupt behavior !
I don't understand you .
It's not about only gas but others energy too. Why should then the European Union not win the gas
or other energy Itself to be independent from Russia like the Americans are doing?
We can grabb our energy ourself!
Why do we need a warmly negociation on their KGB actions.