1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

EU energy ministers reach deal on emergency gas plan

July 26, 2022

Energy ministers from the EU agreed a plan to cut gas use across the bloc amid fears Russia could stop supplies. But some say the current watered-down proposal will not be enough to prepare for winter.

 Pipes are seen at the gas transmission point in Rembelszczyzna near Warsaw on April 27, 2022
A gas transmission point in Rembelszczyzna near Warsaw, PolandImage: Janek Skarzynski/AFP/Getty Images

EU agrees plan to use less gas

European Union member states reached an agreement in Brussels on Tuesday on an emergency proposal to reduce gas consumption as concerns grow that Russia might ultimately cut off already reduced deliveries.

The agreement was announced by the Czech Republic, which is currently heading the EU's rotating presidency.

"This was not a mission impossible!" the Czech presidency wrote on Twitter.

The extraordinary meeting comes as Russia continues to reduce gas deliveries into the EU, which had depended on Russian gas for 40% of its supply before the invasion of Ukraine in late February.

Although Russia has cited technical reasons for the reduction, many in the EU see the move as a weaponization of energy supplies in response to Western sanctions on Moscow over the invasion.

What does the plan call for?

The energy ministers from across the bloc reached agreement on a weakened version of one put forward by the European Commission last week , which called on each country to curb its consumption by 15% from August to March.

Read DW's full analysis of the EU's emergency gas plan here

The initial plan, which could have seen all EU countries obliged to comply with the target in an emergency, was met with resistance by a number of member states.

The current proposal now includes numerous national opt-outs and asks EU countries to voluntarily reduce consumption by 15%, based on the five-year average consumption for the time frame starting next month and extending to March next year. 

"In an effort to increase EU security of energy supply, member states today reached a political agreement on a voluntary reduction of natural gas demand by 15 % this winter," the council of ministers said in a statement

"The Council regulation also foresees the possibility to trigger a 'Union alert' on security of supply, in which case the gas demand reduction would become mandatory," the statement continued.

"The purpose of the gas demand reduction is to make savings ahead of winter in order to prepare for possible disruptions of gas supplies from Russia that is continuously using energy supplies as a weapon," it continued. 

EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson said EU countries now have a blueprint to coordinate action should Russia cut supplies this winter.

"Our initial calculations indicate that even if all the exemptions were used in full, we would achieve a demand reduction that would help us safely through an average winter," Simson said.

Countries such as Ireland and Malta that are not connected to EU gas networks would be exempted.

There would be weaker targets for countries that export gas or whose gas storage is almost full. Certain industries such as the chemicals and steel branches could also receive exemptions.

Gas warfare? Gazprom announces further cuts in gas flow to EU

What have EU countries said about the deal?

Hungary was the only EU member state to reject the plan.

On Tuesday, Hungary's Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto told reporters in Brussels the proposal was "unjustifiable, useless, unenforceable and harmful." 

Szijjarto said he questioned "the legal basis" of a proposal that "decides how much member states can consume from which supplier."

"Will someone in Brussels be explaining to Hungarians how Hungarian people or companies won't be able to use gas while there is gas in Hungary?" he added. 

Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been criticized for his close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Hungary also largely depends on Russian energy, importing 80% of its gas from Russia. In May, Hungary also refused to support an EU embargo on Russian oil

Spain and Portugal, which have little connection to the EU's gas pipeline network, have also expressed reservations about imposing mandatory conservation targets. Greece has also said the plan would place too much of a burden on its economy and citizens.

However, most other EU countries have expressed their support. 

German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said the agreement would show Russian President Vladimir Putin that Europe remained united despite Moscow's best efforts to divide countries by creating artificial energy shortages.

"You will not split us," Habeck said.

Germany is among the countries that relies heavily on Russian gas , but it has nevertheless strongly supported the emergency plan.

Luxembourg's energy minister, Claude Turmes, tweeted that the agreement was the "best move to react to Putin's gas blackmail."

The Czech Republic's industry and trade minister, Jozef Sikela, said in a statement that the EU would "stand tall against any Russian attempt to divide the EU by using energy supplies as a weapon."  

Ahead of the meeting, Polish Energy Minister Anna Moskwa said the plan under discussion was "neutral" for her country, because it included no binding targets.

"We cannot accept any decisions that are imposed on countries," Moskwa told reporters. "Energy security is a national prerogative."

She also said Poland had no need to save as its gas storage was full.

The Irish environment minister, Eamon Ryan, expressed doubt that a 15% reduction would be enough in view of the major cut in the Russian gas supply.

"But it's better than not having it, and I think the signal it sends is also important," he said.


EU fears Russia may cut off gas deliveries

ar, tj/rs,wmr (Reuters, dpa, AFP)