Has European Solidarity reached its limits? Some countries do not want to be forced by the Commission to reduce their gas consumption. Belgium has joined this group of opponents.
“Energy solidarity is a fundamental principle of the EU,” said Commission President von der Leyen on Monday, ahead of a European summit this week. The 27 member states will discuss the Commission’s plan to curb gas consumption by 15% on Thursday.
The plan is binding in the event of a shortage and is intended to accommodate any interruptions in Russia’s gas supply, or even a total shutdown by the Kremlin. Just yesterday, Gazprom announced that its Nord Stream 1 pipeline will operate at only 20 percent of capacity, pending the replacement of a notorious turbine en route to Russia.
Belgium is opposed to this plan, L’echo knows. Like its other opponents-several Southern European countries and Hungary, which acts on its own – our country is asking for an exception.
Context: Belgium, like France, Spain, Portugal, Greece and Italy, is a strategic gas transit country. “Only 25 per cent of the gas we receive through pipelines from the UK, Norway and through lng tankers is destined for our own use. The remaining 75 percent we export abroad, ” the newspaper quoted a diplomatic source as saying.
Now our country believes that our export potential has reached its maximum capacity (the LNG terminals in Zeebrugge are indeed running at full speed). In other words, if our country decided to consume less, we would not be able to export that extra energy anyway. We can’t store the gas here, because we don’t have enough storage space for that. As a result, we would have to curb imports. Specifically, this involves rejecting lng tankers, which bring liquefied natural gas from overseas to here.
However, the plan would involve our country continuing to supply gas to neighbouring countries, while summoning the population and companies to save heavily on their energy consumption. Politically, this is a very sensitive issue, writes De Tijd. “In principle, we have a hard time with that. We are being punished for being a transit country, ” a government source said.
Is not supporting this plan more than a lack of solidarity? Belgium is not very dependent on fossil fuels from Russia, but our Minister of energy, Tinne Van Der Straeten, has recently promised, as part of her winter plan, to support the neighbouring countries if they run out of energy.
This “solidarity” was demonstrated last week in London, which avoided a power outage by paying 11, 460 euros per megawatt hour for Belgian energy; 5, 000 percent higher than the normal price. A price that can be explained by the urgency of the situation and the belated demand from the UK.
In any case, the lack of solidarity on the part of the southern European countries (Spain and Portugal were the first to oppose the Commission’s plan) could be rather unpleasant for Germany. Our eastern neighbours have often set the example and not so long ago, during the debt crisis, reached out to them. But a Germany in recession is a danger for the whole of Europe.