Brussels warns of difficult months for Europe, after meeting of EU energy ministers

Brussels says it is bracing for tough months in the energy sector, following an extraordinary meeting of the bloc’s energy ministers on Monday to discuss its strategy after Russia decided to cut power. gas to Poland and Bulgaria last week.

Now the EU is scrambling to ensure that the continent’s gas storage will be full by autumn. It is currently at 32% and according to the bloc’s energy commissioner, Kadri Simson, any member state could be the next victim of Moscow’s power cuts.

Brussels is working in parallel on a sixth sanctions package against Russia, which will focus on a gradual oil embargo. Germany, previously one of the main opponents, now accepts it.

“After two months of work, I can say that Germany is not against an oil ban from Russia,” said Robert Habeck, German Minister of Economy and Climate, on Monday. “Of course, it’s a heavy load to bear, but we are ready to do it… We have to prepare the hubs, we have to prepare the pipelines. So time is useful, but other countries have more big problems.”

The proposal could be announced by the European Commission as early as Tuesday.

But Simone Tagliapietra, senior researcher at Brussels think tank Bruegel, the plan should be handled with care.

“If we are going to sanction Russian oil with a gradual embargo, Russia could react immediately by saying, okay, then we cut off the gas,” Tagliapietra said. “And giving Russia this strategic game might not be the best option for the EU. It might be better for the EU to immediately impose a tariff on oil and gas coming from Russia to the European Union.”

Some countries are asking for a punitive import tax on Russian energy instead of an embargo.

Mary I. Bruner