The European Union is working on an emergency plan to prepare for a complete cutoff of Russian gas supply, the European Commission chief said on Wednesday.
“It is obvious: Putin continues to use energy as a weapon,” Ursula von der Leyen said, citing a dozen European countries directly affected by the partial or total cutoff of Russian gas.
The regional block has imposed partial sanctions on Russian crude oil and petroleum products, and outlined plans to reduce dependence on gas by two-thirds by the year-end.
Moscow too has announced a reduction in natural gas flows to Europe. Von der Leyen said EU members needed to be ready for disruptions, even complete cessation.
The 27-nation EU needs to respond to this challenge with common action and the plan to be presented by mid-July will have the necessary contingency measures.
Von der Leyen was at the European Parliament Plenary in Strasbourg to unveil the agenda of the Czech Republic’s presidency of the European Council, which she summed up as “Rethink, Repower and Rebuild.”
Addressing the legislators, she said the EU was on a priority diversifying gas supplies away from Russia towards “trustworthy, reliable suppliers.”
The average monthly import of Russian piped gas to the EU has declined by 33% compared to last year, she said, adding to the rise in the export of liquefied natural gas from the US and other countries.
“Since March, global LNG exports, other than from Russia, to Europe have risen by 75%,” she said.
In the wake of Russia’s war on Ukraine, she underlined Europe must achieve “independence from Russian fossil fuels” and the €300 billion ($305.6 billion) REPowerEU project was a step in this direction to make investments in renewable energy.
Von der Leyen recalled the importance of moving towards a green transition, and not competing with limited fossil fuels. She said the soaring energy prices eventually “fill Putin's war chest.”
By Shweta Desai in Paris