EU energy ministers gather in Brussels on Tuesday (July 26) for a special council meeting, with several countries aiming to water down the European Commission’s winter gas emergency plan.
Some member states are hoping to ease the bloc’s plan to force them to use less gas over the winter as Europe braces for uncertain supplies from Russia.
The commission proposed last week that the 27 EU members each cut their gas consumption by 15% from August to March.
The council meeting comes as Russian state-controlled Gazprom announced on Monday that supplies through the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline to Germany would fall to just 20% of capacity from Wednesday.
Germany replied that they saw no technical reason for the reduction.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has weaponized gas exports to pressure the EU to end its sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine.
Before the war, Russia had supplied 40% of the EU’s gas, with some EU countries depending even more on Russian supplies.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday called Russia’s gas supply cuts a “form of terror”.
While the commission’s plan aims to prepare for emergencies, warning that a complete cut off from Russia is likely, it has faced significant pushback from some national capitals, particularly in the south.
Spain and Portugal are not very dependent on Russian gas and do not want to impose major reductions on their economies, arguing that the mandatory reductions are an obstacle to negotiations.
Other countries have expressed concern about the commission controlling their gas consumption.
Poland’s Climate Minister Anna Moskwa said the idea of the commission imposing gas limits on countries “is completely contrary to the idea of energy security and democracy”, according to Reuters.
“The commission’s proposal is not necessarily the most effective, nor the most efficient, nor the fairest,” said Spanish Minister for Ecological Transition Teresa Ribera, according to Euronews.
Greece, Cyprus, Malta and Ireland are also opposed to the mandatory solution.
A single deal seemed off the table on Monday when EU ambassadors discussed the commission’s proposal, with several countries calling for exemptions and derogations.
Certain industries may also benefit from exemptions, which makes the country-by-country targets different.
There are concerns, however, that without binding targets, the plan will have little effect on the ground.
EU countries are already under pressure due to inflation and rising energy prices.
Others fear that the commission’s plan is primarily aimed at helping the German economy.
“The commission instead of telling Germany not to close its nuclear power plants, but it allows them to be closed but when it runs out of energy it will be taken away from us, who are ready,” said the Prime Minister Hungarian Viktor Orbán in a speech. during the weekend.