The European Union set out emergency plans on Wednesday (July 20) for countries to cut their gas use by 15% until March, warning them that without deep cuts now they could struggle for fuel during winter if Russia cuts off supply.
“Russia is blackmailing us. Russia is using energy as a weapon. And therefore, in any event, whether it’s a partial, major cut-off of Russian gas or a total cut-off of Russian gas, Europe needs to be ready,” EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told a news conference.
The comment came as Europe is racing to fill its gas storage ahead of winter and build a buffer in case Moscow further restricts supplies in retaliation for European support of Ukraine following Russia’s invasion. A dozen EU countries are already facing reduced Russian deliveries, and EU officials say a full Russian gas halt is likely.
The European Commission on Wednesday proposed a voluntary target for all EU countries to cut gas use by 15% from August to March, compared with their average consumption in the same period during 2016-2021.
The proposal would enable Brussels to make the target mandatory in a supply emergency – if the EU declares a substantial risk of severe gas shortages.
The regulation needs approval from a reinforced majority of EU countries. EU country diplomats are set to discuss it on Friday, with the aim of approving it at an emergency meeting of countries’ energy ministers on July 26.
Moscow supplied 40% of the EU’s gas before its invasion of Ukraine, but flows to Europe from Russia have since fallen below 30% of the 2016-2021 average.