BRUSSELS (Dispatches) -- The European Union reached agreement on Tuesday on how to cut member states’ consumption of gas by 15 percent and reduce their dependence on Russian supplies.
Russian state-run giant Gazprom will slash supplies to Europe from Wednesday, threatening economies like Germany’s that rely on Moscow’s gas for energy and chemical production.
But the 27 EU members, which have imposed economic sanctions on Russia, met to agree a way cut gas use and share the burden of shortages.
“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 percent this winter,” the council of ministers said.
“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.”
Luxembourg’s energy minister, Claude Turmes, tweeted that Hungary was the only member state to vote against the plan.
The draft proposal put forward by the European Commission last week had stirred some dissent among several EU members, including Greece, Italy, Poland, Portugal and Spain, who opposed the idea that the EU’s executive branch could make the cuts binding in a supply emergency.
Anna Moskwa, Poland’s minister of climate and the environment, said on Tuesday the proposal was “neutral” for her country because it included no binding targets.
Speaking before the talks in Brussels, Moskwa said the Polish government was against assigning obligatory reduction targets to countries.
“We cannot accept any decisions that are imposed on countries,” she told reporters. “Energy security is a national prerogative.”
Spanish Energy Minister Teresa Ribera said upon arrival at the meeting that her government was opposed to forcing consumers and companies to cut their gas use, arguing the country heavily invested in infrastructure to import and re-export natural gas to the rest of the EU.
“Unlike other countries, we Spaniards have not lived beyond our means in terms of energy consumption,” she had said last week, after the Commission published its proposal.
Making the targets compulsory would particularly benefit economic powerhouse Germany, which is dependent on Russian gas for much of its energy production and might need help from its neighbors.
German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said on Tuesday that approving the proposal would be a show of unity.