“A catastrophic situation” .. Germany is trying to get rid of Russian energy quickly

In the weeks following the Russian occupation of Ukraine on February 24, Germany spent billions of taxpayers’ money to reduce its dependence on Russian energy and take control of Moscow’s energy assets, as well as change laws to speed up the supply of supplies. new international.

The Wall Street Journal said the result of a detailed assessment of Germany’s dependence on Russian energy, requested by Deputy Chancellor and Economy Minister Robert Habeck, after taking office in December, was shocking.

Habeck said Germany relied heavily on Russian power supplies for electric vehicles, factories and heating homes and had no emergency plans to provide for others. Nor did the government have a viable alternative to Russian imports.

Habeck came to power after a campaign to limit Germany’s relations with the regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin, which he said were unstable as Russia became increasingly authoritarian and aggressive towards Ukraine and the West. He said he did not understand the extent of the task entrusted to him only after taking office.

“I told myself that the situation we are in is catastrophic,” he added in an interview. “I can not take responsibility for perpetuating this terrible total deficit.”

Russia uses energy as a weapon

The European Union has banned all imports of Russian coal since August and is discussing an imminent ban on Russian oil, which could come within days.

Officials said they would deal with natural gas imports at a later stage, largely because Germany and other countries rely heavily on Russian energy.

Last week, Russia imposed sanctions on gas trade with Europe, which HABIC said would cut Russian gas supplies to Germany by 10 million cubic meters a day, equivalent to about 3 percent of Russia’s annual gas exports. in place.

“Russia is using energy as a weapon,” Habek said.

When Angela Merkel resigned as German chancellor late last year, her policies to provide cheap energy meant that Russian imports accounted for more than 55 percent of the country’s gas consumption, 50 percent of coal consumption, and 35 percent of oil consumption.

Germany has been the largest buyer of Russian gas in the world and one of the most dependent on Russian energy in the European Union.

Business organizations said cheap energy, especially natural gas, was essential to the economy’s competitiveness, warning that many producers could shut down without it.

Some economists estimate that Germany’s gross domestic product could fall by as much as 6 percent if Russian energy supplies are cut off.

Several business executives have complained about the impact of higher energy prices, including Martin Brudermüller, chief executive of German chemical giant BASF, who said the end of imports would lead the German economy into the biggest crisis since World War II. World.

“Germany’s biggest challenge is adapting to the business model: cheap Russian energy has been lost, and so has German competitive advantage,” said Simon Tagliabitra, an assistant professor of energy at Johns Hopkins University’s European branch.

Habeck, a leading member of the German Green Party, has been calling for years from opposition benchmarks to end the use of fossil fuels contributing to climate change.

When he took office, with the Ukraine crisis nearby, he found himself traveling the world securing new oil and gas contracts, pushing for the modernization of refineries set up to process only Russian oil, pumping billions of euros to build centers. new natural gas imports and a network of pipelines to distribute fuel throughout the country.

And the German government says, 11 weeks after the Russian occupation, that the country’s dependence on Russian coal, oil and gas has fallen by 8, 12 and 35 percent respectively.

Economy Minister Habek said Russian coal and oil could be completely removed by the end of May, while Russian gas deliveries could be replaced by next year, as the country found alternative sources.

Habeck acknowledged that there were still many challenges ahead for Germany to give up Russian energy supplies, saying: “There are a lot of things that need to be there … I will not celebrate until gas and oil flow safely. We they have not reached that stage. ” distance “.

“Europe unites”

Germany’s close relationship with Russian energy dates back to the Cold War, when West Germany supplied the Soviet Union with steel to produce pipelines in exchange for cheap gas. The pace of these relations accelerated significantly during Merkel’s 16-year tenure as German chancellor.

As Putin became increasingly authoritarian and aggressive, the Merkel government supported the construction of two gas pipelines between Germany and Russia – North Stream 1 and 2, which never saw the light of day.

Russian giant Gazprom has bought Europe’s largest gas storage facility, and state-controlled Russian oil producer Rosneft has bought a majority stake in one of Europe’s largest oil refineries, and both facilities are in Germany.

New contracts with Norway and the Gulf states helped Germany quickly reduce Russian supplies. But the transfer has been a problem. Rosneft controls the main Schweidt refinery in East Germany, which supplies the region with fuel for cars, planes and heating.

Berlin officials said the Russian company had no interest in refining non-Russian oil. As part of the solution could extend to the Polish Gdansk, where the Baltic Sea port near the German border, which has the ability to receive supertankers from new sources and is connected to the refinery via the Druzhba pipeline, which Poland controls part of the pipeline. that pervades its territory.

In February, Habeck traveled to Poland to seek help, according to officials from both countries. Poland was ready to help on one condition: Russia be removed from the Schwedt refinery.

German officials said they did not currently have the legal authority to remove the Russian company from the Schwidt refinery. A new law is expected to be passed this month that allows the government to seize assets such as the Schweidt refinery, and the passage of European Union oil sanctions against Russia could change its position.

“East Germany and western Poland are now seen as a single supply area,” Habeck said. “Europe is uniting and we are learning to trust each other.”

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