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Europe

EU Considers Energy Options as Winter Looms

As Moscow threatened to scrap plans for a gas pipeline connecting Russia to Germany, the EU unveiled proposals to increase energy security and cut back its dependance on Russian energy supplies.

Snow covers a car

The EU doesn't want to be left in the cold when it comes to energy supplies

The European Commission looked Thursday, Nov. 13, at ways to strengthen crisis mechanisms and boost oil and gas stocks to respond to any disruption in supply.

The 27 EU countries import natural gas from Algeria and Norway but rely on Russia for around 30 percent of their needs, with the Baltic states even more dependent on their giant neighbor.

With confidence in Russian policies at a low after the Georgia war in August and the memory of a gas price dispute between Russia and Ukraine that briefly turned off gas to some European countries in 2006, the European Union is reexamining the stability of its energy supplies.

"We have to do more, be more ambitious, and be even bolder to avoid the risk of energy disruption in the future," EU Energy Commission Andris Piebalgs said.


Norway to supply more to EU

An offshore Norwegian gas drilling platform

More Norwegian gas going to be headed to EU countries

Norway, which is not a member of the EU, said it would increase the amount of gas it exports to the bloc, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday.

Norwegian gas exports to the EU could increase from 100 billion cubic meters (bcm) to between 125 billion and 140 billion cubic meters by 2020, he told reporters after talks with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

"We are going to increase our exports of natural gas to Europe, and you can count on Norway when it comes to energy supplies to Europe," Stoltenberg told reporters.

While he lent his support to the planned Scanled project, which could bring Norway's gas to east to Poland, Stoltenberg said there were no new plans for a major pipeline to the EU.

To ensure the security of energy supplies to the Baltic states, an interconnection plan, covering gas, electricity and storage in 2009, which would identify the infrastructure needed to link these nations to the rest of the EU. Such a plan would make turning off gas to Baltic states without affecting western EU members impossible.

The commission's report also emphasized the development of a "southern gas corridor" to import energy from the Caspian Sea and Middle East regions without crossing Russian territory.

Putin: Russia has options beyond EU

A stove's gas burner

EU members disagree on the importance of the Nord Stream pipeline

The possibility of major changes to European energy policy have irritated Russia, with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Wednesday threatening to cancel plans for the Nord Stream gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea to Germany if EU members kept delaying the disputed project.

"Europe has to decide if it needs the pipeline or not," Putin said, adding that Russia would consider investing in gas liquefaction facilities that would allow it to sell its gas on the world market.

Brussels has identified the 7.4 billion euro ($9.2 billion) project, a joint venture involving Russia's Gazprom, and Germany's E.ON and BASF, as an important step in securing gas supplies for Europe. But it has been criticized in Poland, Lithuania and Estonia, which are upset at being bypassed, as well as in Sweden on environmental grounds.

"We need this pipeline, but if the risks are too high then there's nothing that can be done," Piebalgs said, referring to the potential damage the pipeline could cause the environment. "We cannot lower our environmental standards."

The German government said Thursday it was sticking to plans to build the pipeline and called on the disagreeing parties need to "construction discussions" to get the 1,220-km (758-mile) pipeline built.

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