To mark the occasion with new sanctions and reduce dependence on Russian gas without however going as far as an embargo: the way is narrow for the 27 members of the EU, who meet for a European Council, Thursday 24 and Friday 25 March in Brussels.
The Commission has already put a number of proposals on the table. It pleads first of all for a strengthening of the gas storage rules, with minimum obligations and a filling schedule for each country. These provisions are consensual and should be adopted.
Other proposals, however, are not unanimous. This is the case of price caps and the creation of a group purchasing system, two tracks supported by France. “We don’t produce gas, so the only thing we could consider is the idea of having a twenty-seven gas price cap,” explained the Minister of the Economy, Bruno Le Maire, during a hearing before the deputies, Friday, March 18.
→ ANALYSIS. War in Ukraine: do without Russian gas, the European puzzle
According to him, this would “negotiate with our three main suppliers, Russia, Norway and Algeria, a price of twenty-seven which is a capped price”. In the same spirit, group purchases would be a means of « unite and get lower rates». But they would first be used to fill the storage tanks.
But several Member States would not be in favor of it, such as Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark, which see it as a form of fossil fuel subsidies. “It would be an intervention in the market that hurts some of our European partners”, recognized Bruno Le Maire in the National Assembly. “The gas market is global and demand is already greater than supply. It is difficult under these conditions to imagine that producers agree to sell their gas at a lower price to Europe”argues an industrialist.
Reduce purchases of Russian gas
Everyone agrees, however, on reducing dependence on Russian gas, even if opinions differ on the pace. The Commission mentions a two-thirds reduction in purchases this year, thanks to liquefied natural gas (LNG). But the cost could be significant.
→ READ. War in Ukraine: Europe is concerned about its energy independence
” On the400 LNG tankers in circulation each month, around a hundred sell their cargo directly on the spot market. Europe could buy it if it is ready to pay much more for this gas»underlines Thierry Bros, professor at Sciences Po, recalling that this amounts to depriving gas of other countries which do not have the means to outbid.
No embargo for the moment
The question of financing the war in Ukraine, via purchases of hydrocarbons, remains open, but the idea of a total embargo on gas and oil has been ruled out for the moment. “We are not ready because it is not possible”said on France Inter, Wednesday March 23, the president of the National Assembly, Richard Ferrand, also the president of the campaign committee of Emmanuel Macron. “Sanctions serve to influence Russian political power, they do not serve to punish French women or Frenchmen or other Europeans”, he added.
In Germany, stopping Russian gas deliveries would drag the country into recession, several economists have just argued. “Without Russian gas, we shut down part of the European economy, explained for his part the CEO of TotalEnergies, Patrick Pouyanné, on RTL, Wednesday March 23. En January 2023, the use of gas will have to be rationed, not for individuals but probably for industrialists in Europe. »
TotalEnergies exits Russian oil
The group had announced the day before the end of all its purchases of Russian oil and petroleum products by the end of the year. “I know how to replace this oil and this diesel” Russians, but “gas, I don’t know how to do it”, underlined Patrick Pouyanné.
He does not plan to leave the country either, as the NGOs ask him, recalling that the group had invested 13 billion dollars in gas liquefaction plants in Russia. “It’s not a problem of money, these factories will continue to operate whether I leave or not. To withdraw is to give these 13 billion to the Russians, for zero, because no one can buy them. You want me to give up assets in Russia to enrich Russians who have been put under sanctions? », he launched.