EU announces plan to slash Russian gas imports this year

The European Commission has announced a plan to reduce gas imports from Russia by two-thirds this year.

A worker walks under pipework in Lensk district of Sakha Republic, Russia
The recommendations from Brussels came just before a meeting of EU leaders who will discuss ways to cut Europe's energy ties to Russia for the long term [File: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg]

The European Commission has revealed plans to reduce European Union member states’ dependency on Russian energy sources amid the Ukraine war, proposing to cut gas imports from Russia by two-thirds this year.

The EU’s executive arm said it could erase a huge share of its dependency on Russia by tapping new gas supplies, ramping up reserves for next winter and accelerating efforts to be more energy efficient.

“By the end of this year, we can replace 100 billion cubic metres of gas imports from Russia. That is two-thirds of what we import from them,” EU Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans told reporters in Strasbourg, France on Tuesday.

“This will end our over-dependency and give us much-needed room to manoeuvre,” added Timmermans, who leads EU policy-making on energy and climate change.

In its plan, the EU said the bloc could become fully independent of Russian gas, oil and coal by 2030.

Timmermans, however, urged caution.

“The reality is that there’s quite a number of our member states who would get into real trouble if overnight, all the energy would no longer be provided from Russia,” Timmermans told members of the European Parliament earlier.

“So we need to make sure … we don’t do more harm to ourselves than we do to Putin,” he added.

The announcement comes as the United States said it would ban imports of Russian oil and gas.

Russia openly threatened to halt gas supplies to Europe for the first time since the invasion in comments by Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak to state television on Monday.

The EU is heavily reliant on Russian fossil fuels. Some 90 percent of the gas used in the EU is imported, according to the commission, with Russia providing 45 percent of those imports at various levels to EU member states in 2021.

In the press release, the president of the EU Commission said the bloc must become “independent from Russian oil, coal and gas”.

“We simply cannot rely on a supplier who explicitly threatens us,” Ursula von der Leyen said.

The proposal, which is not binding, calls for 90 percent of gas storage capacity to be filled by September 30, up from about 30 percent now.

The recommendations from Brussels came just before a meeting of EU leaders who will discuss ways to cut Europe’s energy ties to Russia for the long term.

The 27 leaders will agree “to phase out our dependency on Russian gas, oil and coal imports”, according to a draft of a declaration intended to end the meeting and seen by AFP news agency.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies