European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Wednesday that should the worst case scenario materialize and Russia suspends all of its gas shipments to Europe, member states should reduce their consumption by 15 percent. Meanwhile, she urged neighboring states to conclude mutual gas supply agreements.
According to the Commission chief, even before the outbreak of the war, the Russians had deliberately kept the amount of gas delivered low, thereby causing an energy crisis in Europe. She believes that energy security is at risk at the European level, but if the member states remain united, they can overcome the obstacles.
The EU president stressed that both action and solidarity are needed quickly; she asked all member states to contribute to stockpiling gas and to be ready to share it. Von der Leyen said that she knows that these are challenging times, but it is necessary to be organized and show unity and solidarity.
Vice President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans also spoke at the press conference, emphasizing that the reductions are currently voluntary, but if the situation worsens, they will become mandatory.
The European Commission presented a contingency plan on Tuesday, according to which Brussels would stipulate how much gas the member states can consume. The body would give itself emergency powers to force countries to cut gas consumption if Russia shuts off the taps. Furthermore, Brussels would support the measure with a legal mechanism according to which the member states could also decide with a qualified majority, bypassing the European Parliament and the member states’ veto.
Olivér Hortay, head of Hungarian think-tank Századvég’s energy and climate policy department, told Hungarian daily Magyar Hírlap that the Commission’s proposal was “completely absurd.”
He pointed out that as a result of the measure, the member states pursuing a responsible energy policy would supply gas to those pursuing an irresponsible policy, jeopardizing the supply of their citizens. According to the expert, the draft is not only a serious violation of sovereignty, but also raises serious technical questions since “how could the European Commission persuade market players and households to limit their consumption?”
Olivér Hortay further highlighted that the European Commission had not received any authorization for this, so the proposal was completely out of touch with reality.