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GERMANY declared a “gas crisis” today over reduced flows from Russia, calling on industry to reduce use of natural gas and entering Phase 2 of a three-stage emergency plan.
“The situation is serious, and winter will come,” Energy Minister Robert Habeck said, saying a 60 per cent reduction in gas flows via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline was “an economic attack on us by [Russian President Vladimir] Putin.”
“Our country is going to have to go down a stony path,” he warned. If gas reserves for the winter are insufficient, it will have to enter Phase 3 of the emergency plan, cutting off gas to industry to ensure supplies to heat homes, schools and hospitals are maintained — something likely to prompt a recession in Europe’s biggest economy.
Russia says the reduced gas flow is because of a missing part to its pipeline which has been sent to Canada for repairs, but the economic fallout from its invasion of Ukraine has involved sanctions on Russian exports and freezes on its foreign currency reserves. In turn, Moscow has insisted on customers paying for imports in roubles, something the EU has urged states not to do, further disrupting trade.
A block on gas exports to Bulgaria because of its refusal to pay in roubles was among factors that led to the collapse of the Kiril Petkov government this week. Russia has cut off gas supplies to Poland, Denmark, Finland and France as well over payment rows linked to the sanctions, and has threatened retaliation after Lithuania blocked transit of many goods across its territory between Russia and the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, base of the Baltic Fleet.
Germany and the Netherlands have already announced a shift back to coal-fired electricity generation, horrifying environmentalists who say this will prevent the EU meeting its emissions reduction targets.
The U-turn by Mr Habeck — a Green politician — was justified as “bitter but indispensable.” He announced further investment in wind and solar power at the same time.
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