“Hello Europe! We are at the beginning of March, it is the arrival of spring, which means that we have seven months to free ourselves from Russian gas. » Accompanied by a photo of a park in bloom, this tweet by Brussels journalist Sam Wilkin says a lot about the state of mind of Europeans: the war in Ukraine made them realize that it is urgent to reduce the European Union’s (EU) dependence on Russian gas. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has indeed led to an increase in the price of gas in the EU and in world oil prices.
→ READ. A major energy crisis is looming in Europe
On deck, the European Commission is working on a “communication” aimed at the 27 Member States, with a view to ensuring that the Old Continent will not have to face a gas shortage next winter. In the longer term, the institution would like Europe to diversify its sources of energy supply, above all so that it no longer depends on third countries – by moving towards an energy “more affordable, more secure and more durable”.
In October 2021, the Commission had already unveiled a “toolbox” to stem the rise in energy prices that pre-dated the Russian invasion of Ukraine. But this war on the doorstep of the EU is complicating the situation a little more, and is forcing European negotiators to speed up.
“Evolving in a new world”
On Thursday 24 February, following an urgently convened European Council, the 27 Heads of State and Government thus called “to advance the work to prepare”. They invited the Commission “to propose emergency measures, including with regard to energy”. “This awareness, for Europeans, is brutal. They have to evolve in a new world. European sovereignty is no longer a vague concept. Now is the time to put it to music, especially in terms of energy supply”concedes a European diplomat.
To do this, an exceptional meeting of the Energy Council, bringing together the European ministers responsible for this portfolio, was convened on Monday 28 February. On that day, the Commissioner responsible for Energy, Kadri Simson, did not mince words: the war against Ukraine is, in her view, a “a critical moment for Europe’s security architecture, but also for [son] energy system ». This crisis has “painfully exposed our vulnerability” vis-à-vis the rest of the world, added the Estonian Commissioner.
→ ANALYSIS. Germany wants to free itself from its dependence on Russian gas
And while the Minister for the Ecological Transition Barbara Pompili called for reflection on the ways of “predict new stocks for next winter” and of “diversifying our supplies”his German counterpart Robert Habeck, Federal Minister for the Economy and Climate Protection, underlined the fact that “Germany has a higher dependency ratio than other countries [européens, NDLR.] » with regard to the “gas, oil and coal” and therefore there is a “duty” reduce these external dependencies.
Renewable hydrogen to move towards autonomy
For its part, the European Commission evokes in a document dated March 2, “weaknesses, including in the energy sector, which must be tackled to protect our European way of life”. According to a note published by the think tank Bruegel, “the EU could do without Russian gas next winter, but must come together to take tough decisions, accepting that in many cases there will not be enough time to find perfect solutions”.
Concretely, the Commission should call on Tuesday March 8 the Twenty-Seven to bet more on renewable hydrogen. In a legislative package said “gas” in December, the European executive had already shown its interest in this source of energy. Europe would import it in part, but would also produce it on its territory, thus ensuring, at least at least, its autonomy.