Gas crisis: France and the EU at the bedside of Germany

Gas crisis: France and the EU at the bedside of Germany

The 27 European Energy Ministers meeting in an Extraordinary Council have just negotiated and adopted on Tuesday (July 26) the European plan for a voluntary reduction in gas consumption. The Minister for Energy Transition, Agnès Pannier-Runacher, welcomes “an additional milestone for European solidarity”.

Faced with the drop in Russian gas supplies, which account for 45% of supplies to the European Union (EU), the Member States have decided to stick together.

“Adopting a text in five days is almost unheard of”welcomes the Minister for Energy Transition, Agnès Pannier-Runacher, meeting this Tuesday (July 26) with her European counterparts in an extraordinary council.

The text thus provides for a number of measures to reduce gas consumption in the EU by 15% compared to the average of the last five winters. But “15% is no picnic” nevertheless warns Thierry Bros, professor of energy, climate and economy at Science-Po, contacted by EURACTIV.

Therefore, the European energy ministers negotiated that the 15% target should not be binding, contrary to the will of the European Commission. A condition that France called for, in the same way as an absence of obligation of uniformity.

Victory of French pragmatism

At a press conference on Monday (July 25), the Ministry of Energy Transition defended in this sense a “realistic solidarity”in a spirit “constructive”.

French pragmatism therefore seems to have been listened to, since the Council has just adopted a text with a certain number of exemptions.

For Member States which are not interconnected with the gas network of other Member States, for example; for those not synchronized with the European electrical system; for those who have exceeded their gas storage targets, if they are heavily dependent on it, or if their gas consumption has increased sharply.

In addition, Agnès Pannier-Runacher noted, ahead of the Board meeting, that it was important to “maximize our interconnections with incentives for all those [États membres] who have already made efforts to reduce their gas consumption”.

Muted solidarity

By voting for this plan accompanied by a certain number of exemptions and derogations, France and the rest of the EU are therefore sending a mixed message of support to the major consumers of Russian gas.

Observation shared by Christian Ehler, rapporteur for the European People’s Party (EPP) within the Parliamentary Committee on Industry: ” IExemptions negotiated by member states could undermine the coherence of EU efforts and weaken the message of unity, which we need in the face of Russian aggression ».

“If everyone wraps themselves in European solidarity, but in the end most member states ask for a derogation, the plan is no longer useful”laments for his part Thierry Bros.

The professor also notes that “it is not certain that France is not also asking for an exemption”.

Agnès Pannier-Runacher nevertheless declared, before the Council, that it was essential “to ensure that our production chains are protected, because they are completely interdependent. If chemicals cough in Germany, all of European industry can come to a halt” she asserts.

Germany is indeed the main beneficiary of this solidarity policy, insofar as its dependence on Russian gas is very significant and the operator Gazprom has just halved its exports via the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline, the main conveyor gas to Germany, which is only operating at 20% of its capacityagainst 40% yesterday.

“Germany is now the ‘weak link’ in Europe, since it has made no effort” drop in consumption, declared Thierry Bros, this morning on LCI.

For EURACTIV, the professor nevertheless welcomes a text, admittedly ” Politics “but who “takes into account scientific notions”.

Change of business model in Germany

On the other hand, this does not call into question the need for Germany to question its energy-importing economic model. This ” model […] is finished “notes Thierry Bros, adding that “When it stops, there is never going back”.

In this pivotal moment of testing for European unity, the professor thinks Vladimir Putin “challenges” our resolve to transition ecologically and socially. Are we ready to ” suffer ” to avoid the recession in Germany, questions the professor on the set of LCI.

Next step: test the social acceptability of sobriety and consumption reduction measures. Especially since Agnès Pannier-Runacher ensured, ahead of the Board, that this plan was “perfectly consistent” with the sobriety plan announced by the French government to reduce energy consumption by 10% by 2024.

“It will be expensive and it will take a long time” judge Thierry Bros, recalling that even in a period of confinement, the consumption of primary energy had only fallen, in Europe, by 8%.

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