According to diplomats, negotiations are under way in the EU to significantly slim down the original EU gas emergency plan. The compromise paper, which was presented to the Reuters news agency on Monday, provides for maintaining the voluntary target of reducing gas consumption by 15 percent for all countries.
However, there are exceptions to the mandatory target. Different binding targets would then apply to the countries. According to the new proposal, the EU Commission would no longer be responsible for setting the binding target, but rather the national governments.
Some EU diplomats welcomed the paper as a basis for an agreement. Others expressed concern, saying that with so many exceptions, Europe might not save enough gas to survive the winter if supplies from Russia were halted. The EU energy ministers are aiming for an agreement on Tuesday.
An EU diplomat said they wanted to make sure countries showed solidarity by agreeing on a common approach. At the same time, however, it must be clear that the proposal will not be watered down to the point that it becomes a “toothless tiger”.
According to the paper, the targets for curbing demand could be lower for countries with large gas reserves – as well as for countries that export gas to other countries. This includes Spain, which does not depend on Russian gas and is one of the opponents of the EU proposal. Critical sectors such as chemicals and steel could also be exempted.
Greece announced on Monday that it would not support the original EU proposal. One wants to achieve exceptions, said a government spokesman. From his country’s point of view, the basis for consumption should be the past year and not the average of the past five years. If Greece had to stick to the planned five-year regulation, it would have to save 24 instead of 15 percent on gas, the spokesman said.
Greece, along with Portugal and Spain, had already criticized the EU plans last week. The desire of the EU Commission to make the initially voluntary reduction in gas consumption by March 2023 by 15 percent mandatory if necessary is particularly controversial. The 27 EU governments must approve the plan before it can come into force.
The original Commission proposal would enable Brussels to make the target binding in the event of a supply emergency, for example in the course of cut deliveries from Russia.