“Weapons and more weapons,” Ukraine asks. “Gas and more gas,” says the European Union (EU). Ten weeks of war in Ukraine has changed the global balance of power. Relations between Brussels and Moscow have already changed foreverand an important part of this has to do with Europe’s growing energy independence from its most important neighbour.
Josep Borrell, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, often says that when other leaders ask him what he’s doing, he says he’s looking for gas. Currently, the EU is not considering the possibility of imposing an embargo on gas supplies to Russia.. Not because he doesn’t want to, but because he can’t. The Community bloc is dependent on 40% of the gas coming from the Kremlin, and fourteen member states are more than 50% dependent.
Fourteen Member States are more than 50% gas dependent
At the moment, a gas embargo at the European level is not expected. The Twenty-Seven spent days seeking an agreement to boycott oil. There is a lot of consensus at the European level. But Hungary vetoed it. Its Prime Minister Viktor Orban is the closest leader to Vladimir Putin in the European Council. Budapest claims that the offer on table twenty-seven does not guarantee its energy security. Brussels wants to stop buying Russian oil this year and hopes to become completely independent of Russian energy by 2023, but gives Hungary and Slovakia (which are 99% dependent on Russian oil) a one-year delay. But even with all this, the initiative of Budapest is still insufficient.
The EU is currently looking for alternative markets for the time being. It is not easy. Most of the hydrocarbons coming from Russia come through already built gas or oil pipelines, so it’s much cheaper. Brussels has entered into a macro agreement with the United States to increase imports of liquefied natural gas by 68% this year. This is more expensive and polluting energy because it has to be delivered mainly by sea.
The EU is looking for new supplies of crude oil in Africa, in countries such as Tanzania, Nigeria or Algeria.
Moreover, these alternative routes are not enough. And the great dilemma and the greatest problem who can provide the 2.7 million a day of crude oil that EU countries buy from Russia every day. Putin’s country provides the EU with about 25% of its oil. The EU is looking for new supplies of crude oil in Africa, in countries such as Tanzania, Nigeria or Algeria. The African continent has supplied about 20% of gas to Europe over the past decade., but is already preparing to increase this supply. Another market that seems strong is the Egyptian one, marked by a dictatorship in the country established by General Abdelfatah al-Sisi.
In the energy battle, Russia has taken the lead over the EU bloc by limiting gas imports to Poland and Bulgaria. The community bloc balances its supplies to distribute them among member states with more comfortable reserves. D does not rule out new Russian vetoes on other capitalswhich could jeopardize Europe’s energy security. So far, Borrell and the European Commission have spent months looking for alternatives in all global markets. Basically, looking at the markets of Norway, the USA or Arab countries such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates. In the short term, it can survive the shortage of Russian gas, but in the long term, experts are more pessimistic.
The great unknown in the community’s capital is whether Europeans can survive the winter without Russian oil and gas. But another puzzle in Moscow is whether Russia’s ailing economy, hit hard by international sanctions, can survive without the billions of euros that Europe pays it for its hydrocarbons. Since the beginning of the war, on February 24, the Europeans have paid the Russians more than 30 billion euros for their energy. The embargo on coal is already in place, the embargo on oil in the furnace, the embargo on gas will be much more difficult. Because finding alternative routes for the latter is much more difficult. For its part, Russia is looking at markets with more similar countries such as China and India. But Brussels and Moscow have a very strong trade relationship that will be very difficult for both to replace.
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