A decade after its government admonished southern European states to “do their homework” of painful fiscal changes to end a sovereign debt crisis, Germany is slowly adapting to the humbling reality of being worst-in-class when it comes to reliance on Russian gas.
As EU countries in recent days sought to agree on emergency proposals to curb their gas demand in reaction to Russia’s Gazprom throttling supplies to Europe, southern states made clear they were unwilling to sign up to a homogenous 15% cut in gas across countries with a less vulnerable energy mix than Germany.
“They cannot demand a sacrifice from us for which we have not been asked for an opinion,” said Spain’s minister for ecological transition, Teresa Ribera, adding: “We have not lived beyond our means in terms of energy.”
While Germany as of the end of June remains reliant on Russian imports for about a quarter of its gas needs and scrambles to expand infrastructure to import liquefied natural gas (LNG), Spain has massively expanded its LNG structure and is now barely reliant on Russian gas imports.
Recycling a phrase popular with German ministers at the height of the eurozone crisis, Ribera said: “We have done our homework.”
Other southern states such as Portugal and Italy also signalled their opposition, forcing opt-outs to the emergency plans that would allow them to follow different national paths to prepare for Russian supply cuts.
The turning of tables in the bloc of European states has not gone unnoticed in Germany. “Some states suffered heavily during the financial crisis and had to bear the lectures of the Germans,” wrote the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper. “And now they are meant to massively save gas to bail out those same Germans, who have brought this situation on themselves with a misguided energy policy.”
“The collateral damages that several [German] governments have left behind in the EU are too big”, said the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper. “In building [the pipeline] Nord Stream 1, they ignore the energy and security interests of Poland and other central and eastern European states. And they always had to know best, most recently during the taxonomy disagreement over nuclear energy.”
On Monday, the Russian state-owned Gazprom announced it would further halve gas deliveries to Europe via Nord Stream 1 from Wednesday, to 20% of the pipeline’s capacity.
The company cited equipment repairs to a previously unnamed turbine, a reason that the German energy minister, Robert Habeck, described as a made-up pretext and a “farcical story” on Monday night.
“Putin is playing a perfidious game,” Habeck told the news agency dpa. “He is trying to weaken the great support for Ukraine and drive a wedge into our society. To do this, he stirs up uncertainty and drives up prices. We are countering this with unity and concentrated action.”