Simson: By the end of the day, I expect joint EU agreement on gas reduction
EU energy commissioner Kadri Simson (Center) expects a joint political agreement on gas reduction from Member States by the end of the day, she told the media on Tuesday.
An EU energy ministers meeting will be held on Tuesday to discuss countries jointly reducing their gas consumption by 15 percent.
"We will discuss today the EU's proposal for preparedness for the upcoming winter. Yesterday's announcement from Gazprom underlines once again that we have to be ready for possible supply cuts from Russia at any moment. We have to act right now, we have to take care of our preparedness, we have to tackle this crisis right now and together," Simson told reporters in Brussels on Tuesday morning.
"We will reduce our demand preemptively, which allows us to continue the filling of our underground gas storage which is, right now, at 66 percent. This also allows us to reduce the future gap between supply and demand."
Simson said, while member states all have varying levels of dependence and views, she expects an agreement by the end of the day.
Asked if the number of exceptions submitted by countries, including Estonia, makes the policy weaker, Simson said this is not the case.
"The Commission proposed the policy only eight weeks ago and our proposal was that the message sent has to be one of unity and solidarity [...] every [unit] of gas that we manage to not use can help other member states who are facing very difficult challenges," she said.
The Russian state-owned energy company Gazprom said on Monday it would cut its already reduced supply to Europe by another 20 percent, halving the current level of supply.
Simson called the decision, which reduces its gas flows through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline between Russia and Germany, a "politically motivated step".
Russia supplied the EU with 40 percent of its gas last year, and the EU has accused Russia of using energy as a weapon.
The German government said there was no technical reason to limit gas supply.
Sikkut: Europe cannot be blackmailed
Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Riina Sikkut (SDE) told reporters the European Union can "stand united", setting a goal is a step in the right direction and that Russia can always win this game.
"Frankly, it is very important to send out a strong message to the aggressor, to Russia, that Europe cannot be blackmailed. We know that Russia uses energy as a weapon, and Russia understands that it will be a very difficult winter, but Europe will tackle this together. I am positive that we can find an agreement today," she said.
Sikkut emphasized that this regulation has been supported by Estonia since it was proposed eight weeks ago, but the country is at an advantage as it has reduced its reliance on Russian gas over the last decade.
She has also not given up hope a Russian gas embargo will be included in future sanctions packages.
"You can never win in this game, Russia will always outplay you. Estonia has learned this, we have explained it for 30 years and we will continue to explain it, and although there is no embargo on Russian gas, we still support it, maybe it will be in the eighth sanctions package, or the ninth, the war continues and the sanctions haven't been enough," said Sikkut.
It is also understood that some countries are in a very different situation, she said.
"You can't do these things overnight, but setting out a goal, if we can manage it in two years or something, it has long-term effects for energy security in Europe and I think this is something we should work on and today's decision is a step in that direction," the minister said.
Asked if the proposal should be mandatory rather than voluntary, she said it should be mandatory in an emergency situation. But setting a voluntary target means countries are not obligated to do more than the minimum and most will not.
"Estonia will be doing more, and I think we have other Member States that do more — the other Baltic countries, Finland. I think this should also be acknowledged," Sikkut told reporters.
Editor's note: This article was updated to add comments from Riina Sikkut.
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Editor: Barbara Oja, Helen Wright