Energy ministers of the European Union reached a political agreement on Tuesday on a decree for its member states to cut gas consumption by 15 percent this coming winter.
The member states undertook to reduce their use of gas by 15 percent of the average of the last five years between Aug. 1 and March 31, using measures of their own choice.
Compliance with the decree is voluntary for now, but it allows an EU alert to be issued regarding the security of supply, in which case the reduction of gas consumption becomes mandatory.
According to previously leaked information, almost everyone received some form of dispensation. Countries such as Ireland and Malta, which are not connected to the EU gas networks, are exempted, as well as nations whose electricity grids are out of sync with the European network and are significantly dependent on gas.
A temporary exemption may also be granted to member states that exceed the EU target for filling up their gas reserves, if their critical industries are too dependent on natural gas or if their gas consumption increased by at least 8 percent last year compared to the five-year average.
“The EU is united and in solidarity. Today’s decision made it clear that the member states stand against any Russian attempt to divide the EU by using energy supply as a weapon,” said Czechia’s Minister of Industry and Trade Jozef Síkela, whose nation currently holds the presidency of the EU Council. “The adoption of the gas reduction proposal in record time undoubtedly strengthened our common energy security. Saving gas now improves preparedness. The winter will be much cheaper and easier for EU citizens and industry,” Síkela added.
The fact that curbing consumption became voluntary contributed greatly to the success. This was the condition of Poland, among others.
“We cannot accept decisions that are forced on countries. Energy security is a national prerogative,” warned Polish Energy Minister Anna Moskwa previously. She also said that Poland does not need austerity, as its gas tanks are full.
Hungary was the only country that did not approve the decree, with Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó saying it disregards Hungarian interests.
“The Energy Council concluded a political agreement on the reduction of the use of natural gas […] we were the only ones who indicated that we would vote no, so Hungary will vote no on this decree, considering that it completely ignores the interests of the Hungarian people,” Szijjártó said in Brussels.