The future of the EU could be decided by the energy crisis.
If the states don't pull themselves together and fight on their own over the scarce energy resources in winter, a wild west scenario looms, warned the chairman of the International Energy Agency, Fatih Birol, urgently just now.
"The consequences would be very bad for the energy sector, very bad for the economy, but extremely bad politically."
Business correspondent in Brussels.
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For the second time in a short space of time, after the Corona crisis, the EU is threatening to fail because every country is in need for itself.
Everyone actually agreed that the pandemic has shown how unproductive it is to go it alone in such crises, even if it wasn’t just the joint procurement of vaccines that initially jerked.
The states are apparently not aware of the seriousness of the situation.
When the Brussels think tank Bruegel recently announced a “grand bargain” on energy policy, the response was virtually zero.
It is obvious that the EU can only overcome the threatening gas gap of 15 percent of consumption in the event of a total Russian supply stop - mind you in the "normal" winter - not least by using all its capacities independently of national sensitivities.
This applies to German nuclear power plants as well as Dutch gas fields.
EU must remain closed against Putin
However, the EU energy ministers continue to pursue their very own national strategy, openly reject solidarity in some cases and try to drill as many exceptions as possible into every proposal by the European Commission for joint action.
This is also or especially true for Germany.
Instead of campaigning for the joint purchase of gas by the EU in order to lower the price, Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Economics Minister Robert Habeck are heating up the bidding competition with their trips from Qatar to Canada.
The noble commitments in the coalition agreement to the EU fail in the gray reality at the first hurdle.
At best, the Paris – Berlin axis seems to be working.
At least that's what the promise to supply each other with gas and electricity gives the impression.
So far, however, there is no sign that this could give an impetus to the rest of Europe.
This is dangerous because it has consequences for the economy, which is already in danger of slipping into recession due to the energy crisis and high inflation.
The uncoordinated approach is driving up the costs of overcoming the crisis – the EU countries have probably already spent 300 billion euros.
It is dangerous because it weakens the EU in relation to Russia.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is “playing” with allowing sanctions to expire anyway.
The rest of the EU must remain steadfast and closed to the aggressor Vladimir Putin.
So far, as with Brexit, she has done quite impressively despite all the differences of opinion.
Energy crisis messes things up
It is dangerous because it raises doubts as to whether the EU can still meet its other challenges in a spirit of solidarity.
The list is long.
There are the "old issues" of climate change or demographic development.
There are the “postponed” ones, such as refugee policy and the reform of fiscal rules, including dreams of new EU debt.
And finally the “red-hot” of the turning point: How should the EU deal with China, and how far does it want to push the proclaimed strategic autonomy.
The stakes are high.
The EU may be able to bear not having quick and conclusive answers to all questions.
But it needs at least progress if it does not want to further strengthen the "illiberal democrats" Orbán and the populists from Sweden to Italy.
It is all the more important that relations between the states are not further strained.
Germany can play an important role in this.
With his “European policy keynote speech” in Prague, Scholz showed that he is ready – together with French President Emmanuel Macron – to assume a leadership role.
In the energy crisis, it is difficult for him to assume this role, since Germany, which is still perceived by many in the EU as the "eternal know-it-all", is suddenly a petitioner because of the failed Russia and energy policy.
For this very reason, however, it would be important for Berlin not to seek to go it alone in terms of energy again and to rely on having relatively good chances as a large state in the energy wild west.
It could have a bitter revenge.