Putin rubbing his hand with glee as VDL bows to EU fury and waters down rationing plan

Putin's gas war is 'high risk' for Russian economy says Herbst

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As fears of a complete cut-off from Russian gas grow, EU ministers held a special Energy Council to hammer out the details of a contingency plan should Putin try to plunge Europe into darkness. During this meeting, member states finally agreed to EU Commission’s plan to ration countries’ natural gas supplies by 15 percent for the next two years. 

However, the bloc was forced to water down its plans significantly, after facing heavy opposition from a number of states.

The biggest point of contention in the EU Commission plan was the bloc’s first article, which would give the Commission the power to impose mandatory cuts.

The plan sparked an intense row, as diplomats at yesterday’s summit gathered to demand exemptions, loopholes and carveouts that would allow countries to avoid having to cut their gas usage by 15 percent from August to March.

Under the new plans, the bloc announced that countries that are not interconnected to other’s gas networks will not be forced to cut their gas usage by 15 percent.

According to the EU Council’s statement, this is because these countries “would not be able to free up significant volumes of pipeline gas to the benefit of other member states.”

The Council also ceded ground on a number of different scenarios, allowing for a relaxation of the targets if states overshoot their gas storage target, or if they are heavily dependent on gas for their critical industries.

The last point may be specifically for countries like Germany, which is heavily dependent on gas imported from Russia, accounting for more than half of its supply before the war in Ukraine began.

Jozef Síkela, the Czech minister of industry and trade, who holds the rotating presidency of the EU Council, at a press conference: “I know the decision was not easy. But I think, at the end, everybody understands that this sacrifice is necessary.”

Describing the plan as a “satisfying compromise”, he said: “We have to and we will share the pain.”

The agreement came less than 24 hours after Russia’s state-backed energy behemoth Gazprom, announced a sharp reduction in gas supplies through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline from Wednesday.

The head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, accused Putin of blackmailing the EU, saying that there was “no justifiable technical reason” for the cut.

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She said: “The announcement by Gazprom that it is further cutting gas deliveries to Europe through Nord Stream 1, for no justifiable technical reason, further illustrates the unreliable nature of Russia as an energy supplier.

“Thanks to today’s decision, we are now ready to address our energy security at a European scale, as a union.”

The rationing plan has not yet been codified as law just yet, as it now needs to be approved by at least 15 of the 27 states in the bloc, representing 65 percent of its population.

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