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Poland calls for EU energy union to end dependence on Russian gas

22 April 2014

The European Union must create an energy union to secure its gas supply as current dependence on Russian energy makes Europe weak, Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk wrote in an article in the Financial Times on April 21. Russia, which provides around one third of the EU's oil and gas, is facing sanctions after its annexation of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula in March.

Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk
Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk

The action prompted the United States and its European allies to begin imposing sanctions on President Vladimir Putin's inner circle and to threaten to penalise key sectors of Russia's economy if Russia escalates tensions with Ukraine.

An international agreement to avert wider conflict in Ukraine was faltering on Monday, with pro-Moscow separatist gunmen showing no sign of surrendering government buildings they have seized in the east of the country.

Tusk contrasted EU financial arrangements, including its banking union and single supervisory authority, with the free-for-all in the energy sector.

His proposed union should be based on several elements, he said, the first of which would be the creation of a single European body that would buy gas for the whole 28-nation bloc.
Another would be that if one or more EU countries were threatened with being cut off from gas supplies, the others would help them through "solidarity mechanisms".

The EU should also help finance gas storage capacity and gas links in countries which are now most dependent on Russian gas sold by the state-owned Russian gas monopoly Gazprom.

"Today, at least 10 EU member states depend on a single supplier - Gazprom - for more than half of their consumption. Some are wholly dependent on Russia's state-controlled gas giant," Tusk said.

The fourth element was the full use of the EU's existing fossil fuels, including coal and shale gas.

According to Reuters, the EU has made progress in improving its energy security since gas crises in 2006 and 2009, when rows over unpaid bills between Kiev and Moscow led to the disruption of gas exports to western Europe. But so far, EU reliance on imported oil and gas, especially from Russia, has been rising, not falling.

The share of Russian gas rose to around 30% from 22% in 2010, while Russia's oil imports accounted for around 35% of EU use.

UK Energy Secretary Ed Davey also urged action to improve energy security in the face of Russian bullying.

He said: ‘It can’t be right for Russia to hold individual countries to ransom. This is an issue we cannot allow to go off the table.

‘There have been at least two, if not three, occasions in recent times when Russia has sought to use its energy superpower status in quite an aggressive manner,’ he told The Times.

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