Spain, Greece and Portugal have spoken out against the Brussels plan to reduce consumption by 15%
The governments of Spain, Greece and Portugal have declared that they are opposed to an EU plan that would allow them to reduce their consumption of natural gas by 15% during the winter.
Announced by the European Commission on Wednesday, the “Save gas for a safe winter” proposal would involve EU member states reducing their gas use by switching to other energy sources and ordering their citizens to ration their own use. If the commission’s proposal is adopted, member states would be required to report on their progress towards the 15% target every two months, and EU authorities would have the power to declare a state of emergency and make the reduction mandatory.
“I deeply regret to say that Spain does not support this proposal”, Spanish Energy Minister Teresa Ribera said shortly after her announcement. Mentioning that the plan had been revealed without debate in the European Council, Ribera stated that the commission “cannot demand a sacrifice” when “They haven’t even asked for our prior opinion.”
“Unlike other countries, we Spaniards have not lived beyond our means in terms of energy”, Rivera added.
Echoing former German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s statement in 2009 that Mediterranean countries “They were living beyond their means” in the run-up to the financial crisis, Ribera’s comment was probably aimed squarely at Berlin. Having relied heavily on Russian gas to fuel its industry, Germany is currently facing economic ruin after voluntarily canceling the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and backing EU sanctions on Moscow.
Greece spoke out against the plan a day later, and government spokesman Giannis Oikonomou told reporters on Thursday that Athens “does not agree in principle with the EU proposal for a 15% reduction in gas use.” Oikonomou said the government has “we present our own proposals” instead, to the EU. Greece depends on Russia for 40% of its natural gas.
Portugal too “does not accepts” the EU proposal, Energy Minister Joao Galamba told Portuguese newspaper Publico on Thursday. “There are countries that have not protected themselves and are now asking for help” he said in an apparent reference to Germany, adding that a bloc-wide rationing program fails to take into account the fact that Portugal lacks pipeline connectivity with the rest of Europe, meaning gas saved in Portugal could not be used to cover shortfalls elsewhere.
While Spain, Greece and Portugal have publicly spoken out against the plan, officials in Italy, Poland and Hungary also have reservations, Bloomberg reported Thursday. Hungary’s opposition is not surprising, as Budapest has staunchly opposed sanctioning Russian oil and gas during successive rounds of EU sanctions on Moscow.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen described the plan as an attempt to prepare for a “total cut off of Russian gas”, accusing Russian President Vladimir Putin of “blackmail us” with energy
Putin declared Tuesday that the Russian energy company Gazprom is “ready to pump as much as needed, but [the EU] they closed everything themselves.” Putin has previously called for bloc sanctions on Russia “crazy and thoughtless” and accused European leaders of making economic mistakes “suicide” under the direction of the US.
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