Von der Leyen: ” The European Union must prepare for the worst”

Von der Leyen: “Russia is blackmailing us”.
The European Union must prepare for the worst: a possible gas cut-off from Russia. The European Commission has presented a contingency plan with energy saving targets in the face of Russia’s threat to cut off supplies.

“Russia is blackmailing us, Russia is using energy as a weapon. And that is why, in any case, whether in a major partial or total cut-off of Russian gas, Europe has to be prepared,” warned European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen during the press conference to present the plan.

In a first phase, the proposal would be voluntary: Member States will have to try to reduce gas consumption by 15% from August 1 and for 8 months, until March 31, 2022.

But if Russia decides to turn off the tap completely, the European Commission will trigger the “Union alert”. Which would make the targets mandatory. This new mechanism would be based on Article 122 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and could be triggered either by the Commission itself or by three member states when there is a significant risk of serious gas shortages or exceptionally high gas demand.

In the meantime, Brussels is calling for public buildings and citizens to limit the use of air conditioning and heating. “Do we have to have the light on all night in office buildings or empty store fronts? Do we have to have the air conditioning at 20 degrees? Obviously it will reduce our comfort a little bit, but it can also reduce our consumption a lot,” European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans has called for. Although the measures will not be directed at citizens, the President of the European Commission has already asked Europeans on several occasions to reduce the temperature of heating or air conditioning.

Industries will have to save gas.The proposal will mainly affect industries. In fact, the situation will be more difficult for those companies that need large quantities of gas to operate, such as chemical or metallurgical companies, which may have to reduce their production. Or even accept temporary shutdowns.

Member States will set the guidelines for the reduction of gas consumption in industries based on the criteria published by Brussels. The aim will be to avoid impact on the single market, damage to installations or those companies of social value.

But the sto will be done in a coordinated way and there will be funds to compensate the affected industries. This is how Social Democrat MEP Nicolás González Casares explains it. “First we have to see which [companies] can be stopped and from there see how much energy we are going to save. It may be that some companies, right now with the high prices, it is not worthwhile for them to produce and they decide “now that we have this aid we are going to stop”. This will leave some energy leftovers that we will see if they can be used by other industries that really need it. But I believe that all of them have to make their share of effort. Nor can we show solidarity between States but then, within the States, some industries fight with others for that energy”, he explained to Euronews.

Solidarity is a key element of the plan. In any case, the situation for the economy would be worrying. The European Commission estimates that GDP would fall by 1.5% if Russia turns off the gas tap.



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