EU envoys discuss compromise on gas cuts plan

A view shows pipes at the landing facilities of the ‘Nord Stream 1’ gas pipeline in Lubmin, Germany July 21, 2022. REUTERS/Annegret Hilse/File Photo

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BRUSSELS, July 22 (Reuters) – National envoys to the European Union on Friday debated a compromise on a European Commission proposal that the 27 EU countries would cut their consumption of natural gas after widespread resistance governments.

The EU executive has proposed a 15% reduction in gas consumption from August to March to prepare for possible supply cuts from Russia. The target would initially be voluntary, but would become mandatory if the EU executive declares an emergency.

EU national diplomats raised concerns about the proposal shortly after it was presented on Wednesday, while Portugal said it was “totally against” the plan and Hungary said it was discussing with Russia for additional gas purchases. Read more

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The EU aims to reduce its dependence on Russian gas to two-thirds by the end of the year and to zero by the end of 2027.

The main sticking point is whether the Commission should have the power to declare an emergency and make reduction targets mandatory.

Under a proposal put forward by the Czech Republic, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency, the Commission would instead simply offer mandatory cuts on which EU governments would decide, EU diplomats said.

The Commission said on Friday that it was normal to have a debate, but that the need to reduce gas consumption was clear. The issue was not limited to a few EU members and an energy issue could quickly become a broader economic issue.

“It’s based on the fact that there is a serious risk of a gas supply cut off from Russia and we need to be prepared for that eventuality,” a spokesman said. “This is not the first time that we have had fierce debates…on crucial issues.”

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Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; additional reporting by John Chalmers; edited by Barbara Lewis

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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