JThe European Union is united on the need to end Russian fuel imports, but its main economy has been adamant that it cannot afford to break things off too quickly.
While few EU members are particularly keen to disconnect Russian power tomorrow, the Germans in particular have resisted, even under pressure from those outside, including Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who are demanding that they immediately cut ties with Russia.
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The EU hopes to reduce demand for Russian gas by two-thirds this year by diversifying gas supplies, and the recent Versailles Declaration, adopted by member states on March 11, committed them to “[phasing] eliminate our dependence on Russian imports of gas, oil and coal as soon as possible. »
Meanwhile, German leaders decided that an immediate halt was out of the realm of possibility.
Emily Haber, Germany’s ambassador to the United States, has touted a “radical shift” in German foreign and energy policy since the start of the war in Ukraine and spoke of her country’s aspiration, shared earlier this month by Chancellor Olaf Scholz to stop using Russian oil. by the end of the year. But Haber said those in favor of an immediate halt to Russian fuel imports were asking too much.
“Going cold turkey on fossil fuels from Russia would cause massive, instantaneous disruption. You can’t turn modern industrial facilities on and off like a light switch,” Haber said. tweeted Wednesday. “The ripple effects would be felt beyond Germany, the EU’s economic engine and the world’s 4th largest economy.”
Germany has a large industrial base, manufacturing everything from plastics to petrochemicals and pesticides, and running factories requires substantial and constant volumes of natural gas.
A group of economists in the country have warned that a shutdown of Russian energy would slow economic growth to 1.9% in 2022 and contract the economy by 2.2% next year, Euroactiv reported.
“If the gas supply were to be cut off, the German economy would suffer a deep recession,” said Stefan Kooths, economist and vice president of the Kiel Institute for World Economics.
German Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck said in March that such a big loss in productivity means “some people don’t earn any money at all.”
“If certain sectors, such as the chemical industry or the steel industry, can no longer produce, entire supply chains will collapse,” he said.
Still, Zelensky and some German economic leaders have said he would have to bear the losses to avoid paying President Vladimir Putin’s Russia one more euro for energy.
Zelensky told the German Bundestag in March that Russia “is using you and other countries to finance the war”, and he launched a Tweeter earlier this month, depicting a woman refueling her car at a European gas station alongside Russian missiles blasting Ukrainian buildings.
“By buying Russian oil and gas, you are financing the murders of Ukrainians,” Zelensky said.
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Although Germany opposes an immediate severance of ties, it is aiming for 2024 to cut itself off from Russian gas and the end of 2022 for oil.
Meanwhile, EU leaders began drafting a ban on Russian oil imports, the New York Times reported Thursday. Details on the scope or effective date of a possible ban were not released, but officials told the outlet that the ban would be phased in, just as the EU has. done with its ban on Russian coal.