□ Zhang Chunyou, our correspondent in Russia
On July 26, local time, EU member states reached a political agreement to take voluntary measures to reduce natural gas demand this winter by 15%.
Under the agreement, EU member states agreed to reduce gas demand by 15% from the average consumption over the past five years, in accordance with measures of their choice, between August 1, 2022 and March 31, 2023.
If there is a shortage of natural gas supply at that time, the EU will take mandatory measures to reduce natural gas demand.
Some analysts pointed out that the EU's move is to reduce the risk that Russia's natural gas supply may be completely interrupted.
"North Stream-1" repaired again
After the "Nord Stream-2" natural gas pipeline project was forced to stop under the obstruction of the United States, the "North Stream-1" became an important pipeline to Germany through the seabed of the Baltic Sea to supply Russian natural gas to many European countries.
However, Gazprom (Gazprom) announced on the 25th that from 4:00 GMT on the 27th (12:00 Beijing time on the 27th), the single-day gas supply of "Beixi-1" will be cut by half compared with the current level, namely Adjusted to 20% of full load, the daily gas delivery is about 33 million cubic meters, on the grounds that a turbine in use needs maintenance.
In mid-June of this year, Gazprom said that due to Siemens' failure to deliver the turbines for repair to Russia in time, Gazprom was forced to reduce the gas transmission volume of "Beixi-1" by nearly 60%. An average of 167 million cubic meters fell to 67 million cubic meters.
Turbine manufacturer Siemens said at the time that the turbine was sent to Montreal, Canada for repairs, but could not be returned due to Canada's sanctions on Russia.
On July 9, Canada announced that it would grant Siemens Canada a time-limited and revocable exemption to allow companies to return Nord Stream-1 components to Germany.
On July 25, Gazprom confirmed on social media that it had received documents from Germany’s Siemens about allowing the return of the turbines of the Nord Stream-1 natural gas pipeline.
However, Gazprom said the document did not respond to some of the concerns previously raised by the Russian side and "raised some new issues".
Therefore, Gazprom once again sought clarification and relevant documents from Siemens on some issues.
According to Russia’s Kommersant, the turbine was originally scheduled to be sent to Russia from Germany via Finland on July 23, but the trip was not made due to the lack of necessary documents for Gazprom, and the turbine is still in Germany.
EU forced to save gas
For the Russian side to reduce gas supply due to maintenance, the EU naturally cannot accept it.
A spokesman for the German Ministry of Economic Affairs made it clear that, according to German sources, there is no technical reason for the reduction in gas transmission.
However, in the absence of finding a way to reduce energy dependence on Russia, the EU has to face this reality and can only think of ways to "save gas".
As the European Council said, the reduction in gas demand is to save costs ahead of winter and prepare for possible disruptions to Russian gas supplies.
Currently, many countries in Europe are very dependent on Russian natural gas.
According to 2021 figures, about 45% of the EU's natural gas comes from Russia.
The European Commission published a proposal on July 20, proposing member states to reduce natural gas use by 15% from August 1 this year to March 31 next year to deal with gas shortages.
However, there are differences within the EU on the practice of mandatory reduction of natural gas use. Some countries believe that the 15% target is too high because of their low dependence on Russian natural gas supply; "Indicating the power to "voluntarily change to coercion".
Therefore, this plan has been explicitly opposed by many member states.
In order to win the support of member states, the European Commission revised the above-mentioned plan on July 25. The revised plan retains the voluntary targets for all countries, and when formulating mandatory indicators, it must be based on countries' dependence on Russian natural gas and The adequacy of natural gas reserves in each country is distinguished, and a series of "exemption rules" are provided.
The plan was finally agreed to by EU countries on July 26.
However, Russia's "Independence" published an article saying that if Europe wants to "abandon" Russian natural gas, a 15% reduction in natural gas consumption is far from enough.
According to BP statistics, Russia's natural gas exports to Europe in 2021 will account for 32% of Europe's total gas demand.
Public opinion believes that in the context of lack of gas, differences within Europe may become more prominent, and this winter may become a "historic test of European unity".
Russia and Europe accuse each other
The EU, beset with energy problems, accused Russia of "using energy as a weapon".
Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov said that in the past six or seven years, the EU has been saying that Russia has used natural gas "as a weapon", but has not given any examples, and has also used various methods to limit the transportation capacity of the "Nord Stream-1".
For a long time, Europe has been highly dependent on Russia's natural gas, oil and other energy supplies.
In recent years, due to the tense relations between Russia and Ukraine, Russia has gradually increased its gas pipelines to Europe that bypass Ukraine. However, affected by Western sanctions against Russia and Russian countermeasures, the relevant gas pipelines are not smooth.
For example, the "Beixi-2" natural gas pipeline that Russia and Germany once pushed for will be completed in 2021.
In February this year, affected by the changes in the situation in Russia and Ukraine, Germany announced to suspend the certification process of the "Beixi-2" natural gas pipeline project.
In addition, the "Yamal-Europe" natural gas pipeline that enters Germany via Belarus and Poland was originally an important channel for Russian natural gas to be exported to Europe.
At the end of May, Poland rejected Russia's "ruble settlement order" to counter Western sanctions and announced that it would stop receiving Russian natural gas.
In addition to Poland, Russia has also cut off gas supply to several EU countries such as Bulgaria, Denmark and the Netherlands for the same reason.
German Deputy Chancellor and Minister of Economy and Climate Protection Robert Habeck told the media that Germany cannot rely on Russian gas supplies and needs to further reduce natural gas consumption and replenish natural gas inventories.
He accused Russia of "coercing Europe and Germany" with energy supplies.
Russian President Vladimir Putin told the media a few days ago that Gazprom has been and is fulfilling its energy supply obligations and will do so in the future.
It makes no sense for European countries to try to blame Russia for the crisis caused by their own energy policy mistakes.
The current energy crisis in Europe is not due to Russia's supply cuts, but due to Western sanctions against Russia.
Hou Zhengmeng, a professor at Germany's Clausthal University of Technology and the Energy Research Center of Lower Saxony, said in an interview with Xinhua News Agency that European countries used energy as a weapon to sanction Russia. May be frozen.
According to Putin, the West took the initiative to close many gas pipelines in order to sanction Russia, so the current energy crisis in Europe is purely self-inflicted.