Can EU Escape From Russian Gas Cut-off This Winter?

11 December 2015
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Relations between the West and the Russian Federation became extremely tense following the annexation of Crimea by Moscow, and the situation has yet to improve.  Currently, one third of the gas consumed in the EU today comes from domestic resources while the remainder needs to be imported from four external gas sources.  At the moment 30 per cent of Europe’s gas supply comes from Russia. The energy supply security across Europe has improved in general and from the perspective of energy security developments since 2009; Europe has recognizably overcome the previous East-West divide.  Most countries located in this geographical region are making real progress in this regard. As a result, it should come as no surprise that the countries geographically situated in the northwest region of Europe have become almost immune from any likely gas interruptions that may originate from Russia. Conversely, the North-South gap in overall energy supply security still remains real and in effect. The energy supply security of EU once again took on importance following Crimea’s annexation in 2014 and then again in response to Russian’s hybridization of war mostly in the eastern parts of Ukraine. The international community has witnessed how Russia, in retaliation, responded to the EU/USA sanctions following the annexation of Crimea. Moscow had initially declared the postponement of South Stream and then employed the various instruments at her disposal in dividing the 28 members of the EU especially in regard to the energy issues associated with the Western Balkans. Under the current deteriorated relations between the West and the Russian Federation, and due to the continuing geo-political competition between the two sides, the south-eastern countries, because of their vulnerabilities in the field of energy supply security, fell into instability alongside these competitive geo-political parameters. The good news is that High Representative of the EU Commission has very recently welcomed the EU Energy Diplomacy Action Plan whose aim is to bring new synergies to all EU partners in order that both the diversification of energy source countries and the network of supply routes could be facilitated at the same time. This Energy Action Plan, which aims to diversify Europe’s energy supply options, does naturally call on EU diplomatic support to focus on the various sources that are located in the vicinity of the EU borders or beyond. Hence, EU Energy Diplomacy Action Plan, in the face of EU’s current and future gas demand, identifies the Southern Gas Corridor, which could be supplied by the resources from the Southern Caucus, Central Asia, and the East-Mediterranean region, including the wider Middle East. It also mentions other possibilities besides such LNG energy source countries as the Americas, Africa, and Australia and look upon them as potential opportunities. Certainly, this diversification effort in Europe is by no means the first approach and nor does it seem to be the final one. The Union’s previous efforts to limit the EU’s dependence on Russia as a gas supplier goes back to the 2006 Green Paper, by which Brussels identified the Southern Gas Corridor as an important diversification route and also listed more or less the same group of source countries/suppliers, with the exception of the LNG ones, as well as the same routes that are now emphasized by the EU Energy Diplomacy Action Plan.



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