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A united EU responds to Russia’s decision to halt gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria

At the end of the emergency meeting of the European Union’s Energy Minister in response to Russia’s decision to halt natural gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria, two keywords emerged: unity and solidarity. This is what Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simons and the French Minister for the Ecological Transition Barbara Pompili are insisting upon.

As reported by the respective Ministers, Poland’s and Bulgaria’s security of supply is for now guaranteed and the European Council will keep monitoring the situation by also setting up a special regional task force.

“This situation has strengthened our determination to reduce our dependence on Russian fossil fuels,” Mrs Pompili said. “And we need to continue with our efforts to make the EU more resilient.”

In particular, she mentioned the importance of filling the gas storage, finding alternative suppliers and ensuring continuous monitoring of the situation.

“As the green party, we are working on the gas regulation and at the end of May, we will re-present the REPowerEU plan so as to closely coordinate the best way to find alternative gas supplies,” Minister Pompili added.

Of course, gas will not be the only solution as Commissioner Simson also recognised that it is impossible to replace the 155 billion cubic metres (bcm) of Russian gas, with other gas. Accelerating the European Green Deal is essential and this means also increasing energy efficiency measures and renewable energy sources.

“This is a turning point in the current crisis and an unjustified breach of existing contracts. Any Member States could be next,” Mrs Simson said. “We must respond with unity and solidarity.”

She underlined once again that paying in roubles, as requested by Russian president Vladimir Putin is in breach of the contracts that have been signed, from a commercial point of view, as well as a breach of the sanctions approved by the Western leaders. The same principle applies to the idea of setting up a separate bank account, making payments in euros and then waiting for Gazprom to convert these into roubles.

“Nevertheless, many energy companies are making the next payments to Gazprom in May and we need to give them clarity,” Mrs Simson said.

She also pointed out that there is no immediate risk for Europe’s security of supply, as Bulgaria and Poland are currently being helped by Greece and Germany. Later, all the projects nearly to completion will play a crucial role. These include the Baltic Pipe which will start operations in October this year and will connect the Norwegian sector of the North Sea with Poland; second, the Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria (ICGB).

“The Yamal route represents only a big portion of the imports to EU,” Mrs Simson added. “This week, LNG reached the record amount of 0.4 bcm per day. At the same time, gas storages are filled at 32 per cent and they are increasing.”

No news on the front of an embargo on Russian oil as this was not on the agenda of the meeting. However, both Mrs Pompili and Mrs Simson revealed that a new package of sanctions is under discussion and that all Member Stated (no country excluded) have plans to face supply disruptions and are ready to respect the contracts signed.

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