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international

Europe to balance energy and Ukraine at Versailles summit


Leaders of European Union countries will meet in Versailles on Thursday (March 10) for a two-day summit to discuss ways of weaning their countries off a heavy reliance on Russian energy imports.

The EU relies on Russia for 40% of its natural gas needs, to power not only homes but also factories, energy expert Thierry Bros, a member of the EU-Russia Gas Advisory Council, said.

"It's going to be very very difficult, it's going to be very, very painful for the Europeans," Bros said.

He said that only an estimated 75% of gas imports from Russia can be replaced in a best-case scenario, with alternative exporters such as Norway and Algeria already running at full capacity, leaving a gap that would certainly spark a rise in electricity prices and lower industrial productivity.

"It's going to be a doubling or tripling of our electricity bill, it's going to be a doubling or tripling of our gas bill, but it's also going to be a blackout, perhaps, and an economic recession," Bros said.

He said countries may have to turn more to coal plants to address their power generation needs, as France had done at the start of the year, and prioritise stopping the war over goals of reducing carbon emissions.

Russian gas delivered through pipelines continued to flow via Poland westward into Germany, while flows into Slovakia via Ukraine remained at recent high levels, pipeline operator data showed on Wednesday (March 9), following Russia's threats to cut supplies.

"The question is, how much money are we willing to send to the Russians that are using this money for the war?" Bros said.

U.S. President Joe Biden on Tuesday (March 8) imposed an immediate ban on Russian oil and other energy imports, prompting a further surge in oil prices.

Oil prices have surged more than 30% since Russia, the world's second-largest crude exporter, invaded Ukraine.

Bros said the impact of such an energy imports ban is less severe for the U.S., which does not rely on Russia for its oil and gas needs.

The war entered its 14th day on Wednesday, with 2 million Ukrainians have fled abroad.

Also on the agenda at the March 10-11 EU summit in Versailles are boosting Kyiv's links to the EU single market and to Europe's energy grid, under ideas for enhanced partnership.

But EU leaders are set to rebuff Kyiv's appeal for accelerated membership to the bloc.

Published : March 10, 2022

By : Reuters