The European Union has made it a priority to end the import of Russian energy. This is an inevitable task, requiring drastic changes in the EU’s energy system at an accelerated pace in view of Russia’s attack on Ukraine and the decarbonisation aspirations of the Union.
The Eastern Member states are especially challenged as the majority of their natural gas is supplied by Russia. Yet, the war has urged these States to take a stance.
Where do the Central and Eastern EuropeanSstates stand exactly on banning Russian energy following its invasion of Ukraine over a month ago?
Poland proposes a ‘radical plan’
Poland, the country which has spent 13.5 billion US dollars on energy imports from Russia in 2020 announced on 30 March that it will abandon gas and oil from Russia completely by the end of 2022.
Even though Poland would expose itself to energy insecurity with such a move, its officials state that the country is prepared thanks to increased imports of US LNG and Norwegian gas through the Baltic Pipe.
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told the press that it is time for the European Union to carry out a radical plan and phase out Russian fuels.
Poland has also imposed a ban on coal imports from Russia which account for the fifth of all the coal consumed by the country’s economy. The ban will be enforced from April and affect not only state-owned companies but private firms too. Any violation of the ban could result in high fines.
Lithuania is turning to Saudi Arabia for oil
According to the World Bank data, Lithuania imported 63.23 per cent of its fuels from Russia in 2019, reaching over 4 billion dollars in value. The country has one of the highest oil dependencies on Russia in the Union. Moreover, its Mažeikiai oil refinery is the only oil refinery in the Baltic states that was adapted to Russian oil supplies specifically.
At the beginning of March, however, the owner of the refinery, Orlen Lietuva said that the company struck a deal with Saudi Aramco for five additional tankers to receive the commodity from the North Sea and provide alternative crude oil supplies to refineries of the Czech Republic, Poland and Lithuania.
Reportedly, the Energy Minister of Lithuania, Dainius Kreivys said that Orlen Lietuva plans to use oil supplied only by Saudi Arabia.
The country’s President, Gitanas Nauseda stated that his country can replace Russian gas with liquefied natural gas from alternative suppliers.
“We can satisfy our needs and we can cover our demand for natural gas by importing liquid gas from various countries, including the United States”, he said at the Atlantic Council event for Baltic Presidents.
And, on 2 April, Lithuania decided to completely abandon Russian gas, with all the gas demand being satisfied through the Klaipeda liquefied natural gas terminal.
Czechia is reluctant to full energy embargo
Czechia imports 66 per cent of natural gas from Russia and around 50 per cent of oil. The country’s Prime Minister Petr Fiala said last Thursday in Brussels that while he welcomes the discussion on decreasing dependency on Russian fossil fuels, Europe is not ready to enact a full energy embargo on its Eastern neighbour. At the beginning of March, he did not support the immediate ban on energy imports from Moscow and stressed the necessity of a gradual reduction of reliance.
In his latest tweet on Dukovany nuclear power plant, Fiala stated that “countries that are a risk to the Czech Republic will not be able to participate in the power plant completion tender.” In 2021, the Czech Government excluded Rosatom (Russia) and CGN (China) from the tender for security reasons.
Dukovany NPP which is one of the two nuclear power plants of Czechia alongside Temelin relies on Soviet-era technology and is provided with fuel from Russia.
Slovakia seeks alternative supplies
Slovakia has one of the highest dependencies on Russian oil and gas in the EU, importing approximately 87 per cent of natural gas and two-thirds of its oil. However, the country openly supports the ban on Russian energy imports into the Union.
“We, the entire EU, have to phase out our energy dependency on Russia ASAP. Developing and moving towards alternative sources of energy including LNG is our priority. Slovakia has always been a reliable transit partner and we expect the same from our EU partners”, Prime Minister Eduard Heger said earlier in March.
Last Sunday, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Slovakia Ivan Korcok held a series of bilateral talks in Doha, Qatar. He discussed liquefied natural gas (LNG) production and energy security of Slovakia, reinforcing the claims that the country is indeed considering alternatives to Russian natural gas supplies.
“Today I held talks with representatives of Qatar about possible options for the supply of liquefied natural gas from this country”, said the Minister during the Doha Forum which was held on March 27 in Qatar.
Hungary opposes sanctions on Russian energy
Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is against the extension of sanctions on Russian energy. According to him, such a move could put a disproportionately large burden on Hungary.
“While we condemn Russia’s armed offensive and we also condemn the war, we will not allow Hungarian families to be made to pay the price”, he said in London during the summit of the prime ministers of the V4 countries and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
According to the Hungarian government, 64 per cent of Hungarian crude oil imports come from Russia and its gas supply accounts for 85 per cent of household heating in the country.
In 2021, Hungary signed a 15-year gas purchase agreement with Russia. However, it also took steps toward diversifying energy sources through LNG imports from Croatia.