EU ministers agree on gas cuts plan as Gazprom tightens squeeze

European Union energy ministers have reached an agreement on an emergency proposal requiring member states to cut their gas use by 15 percent from August to March in the face of concerns about the reliability of Russian supplies in the coming winter.“Member states today reached a political agreement on a voluntary reduction of natural gas demand by 15% this winter,” the European Council 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,” it added.

Gazprom, Russia’s state-controlled gas giant, announced on Monday it was halting the operation of one of the last two operating turbines of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline due to the “technical condition of the engine”. Deliveries to Europe via the pipeline were to be reduced to 33 million cubic metres a day – about 20 percent of its capacity – from Wednesday.

Last year, Russian gas accounted for some 40 percent of the EU’s imports of the energy source. Concerns in the bloc over energy supplies, especially gas, have increased as Russia curtailed deliveries in recent months amid the war in Ukraine, seen as retaliation for Western sanctions.

On Tuesday, EU energy policy chief Kadri Simson said Gazprom’s announcement was “politically motivated”.We know that there is no technical reason to do so,” Simson said upon arrival at the special Energy Council in Brussels on Tuesday, disputing the company’s claims.“This is a politically motivated step, and we have to be ready for that. And exactly for that reason, the preemptive reduction of our gas demand is a wise strategy,” she added.

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.

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