EU lawmakers renew call to cut Russian oil, gas imports
The European Parliament on September 16 urged the EU to reduce its oil and gas imports from Russia "at least while president Putin is in power," citing the need to promote democracy in the country.
EU politicians have repeatedly called for the bloc to lessen reliance on Russian energy supplies since relations between Russia and the West collapsed in 2014 after Moscow's annexation of Crimea. The latest call comes at a time when European gas prices are at a record high, and Russia has been criticised for not sending enough gas.
In a text that was approved by 494 votes in favour, with only 103 against and 72 abstentions, the parliament said that the EU "must establish an alliance with the US and other like-minded partners to counterbalance the efforts of Russia and China to weaken democracy worldwide and destabilise the European political order. It should foresee sanctions, policies to counter illicit financial flows, and support for human rights activists."
"On Russia's aggression and influence over the EU's eastern neighbourhood, the EU must continue to support so-called "Eastern Partnership" countries such as Ukraine or Georgia, and to promote European reforms and fundamental freedoms in the region," the text read. "These efforts should also serve to encourage Russian support for democratic reforms."
Lawmakers stressed that "the EU needs to cut its dependency on Russian gas, oil and other raw materials" at least while the Putin regime remains. They noted that the European Green Deal, with its focus on scaling up European renewable energy, would play a key role in achieving this.
"MEPs want the EU to build its capacity to expose and stop the flows of dirty money from Russia, as well as to expose the resources and financial assets that regime-linked autocrats and oligarchs have hidden in EU member states," they said.
The lawmakers concluded saying that the EU should be prepared to withhold recognition of Russia's parliament if this month's elections violate democratic principles.
In a speech to parliament Josep Borrell, the EU's foreign affairs chief, drew attention to the high cost of gas in Europe, noting that Russia was benefiting from the situation.
"They have a lot of gas, and gas is becoming more and more expensive," he said. "This is good news for them and bad news for us."
Russia's state-owned Gazprom faced has faced accusations that it is withholding some supply to drive up prices and put pressure on the EU to clear the way for Nord Stream 2's launch, although Ukraine has also been criticised for offering inadequate transit terms.
"It would not be an unprecedented tactic for European politicians to seek to blame Russia for what is wrong with the continent's gas and power markets," BCS Global Markets said in a research note on September 14 commenting on the high gas prices. "However, this tactic will be heavily undermined if European bureaucrats drag out the launch approvals of Nord Stream 2. Once the gas is allowed to flow, though, the onus will shift back to Gazprom."
Germany's energy regulator has four months to decide whether to certify the Nord Stream 2 operating company as an independent transmission system operator – a ruling that will affect how much of the pipeline's capacity Gazprom can use. The regulator's decision will then be reviewed by the European Commission. The pipeline will also need technical certification before it can start flowing gas.