The EU gas deal to save the winter: six exceptions and a lot of fine print

White smoke in the EU to save gas and save the winter. After many divisions, suspicions and the occasional reproach, the 27 energy ministers have reached an energy agreement to prepare for the worst scenario: the complete closure of the Russian gas tap. The EU has reached a political agreement which has yet to be formalized by written procedure. But I have not made it completely united. The traditional rebel, the Hungarian Víktor Orbán, has been the only one to stand out.

The Europeans consider that this pact shields them against possible gas disruptions in the future. But The devil is in the details. The proposal Save gas for a safe winterwhich the European Commission presented a week ago, has undergone significant changes in its arrival at the table of the European Council, the institution that brings together the 27 capitals.

For now it is more decaffeinated. In its initial plan, Brussels established a threshold of 15% savings for all member states. On a voluntary basis, which could become binding in the event of an energy emergency. What changes after today’s agreement? Many nuances. The 27 have been forced to do a great tightrope walk to accommodate the disparate situations of each of their States. What comes out is a measure that stands out for its exceptions.

EU countries will be eligible for exemptions at that threshold for up to six assumptions: lack of interconnections; liquefied natural gas export capacity; high dependence on Russian infrastructure; above average gas storage; or in case your gas consumption has increased by 8% in the last year compared to the last five. All this now faces a long road of translations in specific thresholds and in a very cumbersome technical work to avoid discrepancies, selfishness or misunderstandings when putting it into practice.

Spain is the main port of entry for liquefied natural gas in the EU

Grounded to the non-community language, what the proposal contemplates are three scenarios. One that affects the energy islands. A) Yes, Cyprus, Malta and Ireland they are the only Member States that are directly exempted from complying with the objectives if the “alert” energy. In the second, it is that of prevention. Countries like the Baltics, very synchronized with the Russian supply, will only be able to avail themselves of this derogation if a more critical moment arrives. And the third, could be that of “reward“. Countries like Spain can lower the 15% goal by having a favorable scenario contemplated in these exemptions.

Spain is the main port of entry for liquefied natural gas in the EU. In an emergency it could export up to 5.6 billion cubic meters to their community partners. already re-exports 20% of your gas. And, in addition, its gas reserves are well above the community average. With all this in the background, the vice president in charge of Energy Transition, Teresa Ribera, has scratched a voluntary reduction of “7% or 8%” for the country. A path that Italy or Portugal will also follow. The Spanish minister has assured in a press conference that the energy supply in the country is not in danger and she has ruled out rationing for households even in a state of alert.

The Community Executive wanted to save some 45,000 million cubic meters of gas in the next eight months

The designation of this state of alert is another novelty. It will be the European Council by qualified majority that will have the power to declare it, and not the Commission as foreseen in the initial proposal. Five Member States will be able to request this scenario from Brussels, which would be unleashed if Putin finally completely cuts off the gas tap. Thus, the main unknown that arises from the reduction of objectives is whether it will be enough.

The Community Executive wanted to save some 45,000 million cubic meters of gas in the next eight months. With the sales, she is already dancing between a goal of 30,000 million. The appointment also concludes at the gates of the second cut in the Nord Stream I gas pipeline in just two weeks. The largest pipeline that feeds Europe will pump half a lung tomorrow.

The Kremlin alleges “technical problems”, but in Brussels they attribute these interruptions to Putin using gas as a “blackmail” “weapon” to impose more pressure on European governments, societies and economies, still highly dependent on this Russian resource. The European calendar goes through completely getting off Russian energy in 2026, but finding alternative markets that suppress demand is proving to be a very complicated task.

The EU welcomes the agreement as a clear sign of “solidarity” and “unity” against Putin. “We don’t just send a strong message to Vladimir Putin, which has once again failed in its mission to divide the EU, but our citizens. Winter will be much cheaper and easier for European citizens and industries,” he assured Joseph SikelaCzech Energy Minister who holds the rotating Presidency of the Council.

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