15 EU countries, which in turn represent 65 percent of the EU population – that is the yardstick that will apply at the special meeting of EU energy ministers this Tuesday in Brussels. A decision on the emergency plan for European gas supply proposed by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen requires a so-called qualified majority among the 27 member states. If it were to happen, Germany in particular would benefit from the Commission’s plan, according to which each EU country should save 15 percent of the average gas consumption of the past few years by next March.
If the gas supply situation continues to deteriorate due to a possible total failure of deliveries by the Russian state-owned company Gazprom, the EU states could also be obliged to save according to the planned regulation. This is exactly the point that is worrying around a dozen EU countries. That is why on Monday in Brussels it was not ruled out that the energy ministers would first go home without a formal decision.
Last week, Denmark and the Netherlands had already signaled that before a decision was made at EU level, the domestic parliaments would first have to deal with the planned regulation. In the Netherlands, there are considerations to extend production in Groningen – the largest gas field in Europe – beyond the soon planned end in the event of a complete Russian supply stop.
In addition to questions of parliamentary approval, fundamental issues also play a role in other EU countries if they are skeptical about von der Leyen’s emergency plan. Spain’s Energy Minister Teresa Ribera criticized the fact that her government had not been consulted before the Brussels emergency plan was presented.
Not only southern EU states are demanding exceptions, but also the Baltic countries. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania want to ensure that they will not be forced to save gas if their connection to the Russian electricity grid is cut. The Baltic States are currently still connected to the common power grid with Russia and Belarus.
Meanwhile, the EU’s emergency plans have met with complete rejection from Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who had previously acted as a brakeman during discussions on the EU’s oil embargo. Orbán is also marching in the opposite direction in the current discussion about Europe’s gas shortages: Last week, Orbán’s Fidesz party announced that Hungary intends to buy an additional 700 million cubic meters of gas from Russia this year.