Friday, December 8, 2023

Baltic Sea countries agree to do without Russian gas

Ensure as soon as possible the energy independence of the countries of Northern Europe which are members of the European Union vis-à-vis Russia. This is the purpose of the summit of the Baltic Sea countries which was held this Tuesday in Marienborg, the summer residence of the Danish Prime Minister, near Copenhagen and to which Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, was invited. .

With an irony for all these countries that the Polish Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki did not fail to point out: the Baltic Sea is crossed by the two large Russian gas pipelines, NordStream 1 and 2 which allow Vladimir Putin to finance the war in Ukraine and at the same time, to try to tie the hands of the European Union.

An unsustainable rise in prices

But now, the energy crisis is raging and everyone is worried about it. “Russia is using gas as an economic weapon to put pressure on European households,” said Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin. However, the explosion in electricity and gas prices since the start of the war in Ukraine “will not be sustainable for businesses and households”, recalled Ursula von der Leyen who, the day before, had announced a reform of the operation of the European electricity market .


For the boss of the European executive, there is only one way to end European dependence on Russian hydrocarbons, it is “to invest in renewable energies” and to do it “fast and strong” . “We must accelerate the ecological transition to free ourselves from Putin’s gas”, insisted Mette Frederiksen, the Danish Prime Minister.

The Baltic States, Sweden, Poland, Denmark, Germany and Finland have therefore decided to come together to invest in the energy transition. The power generation capacity of wind turbines in the Baltic Sea will be multiplied by seven by 2030, from 3 to 20 gigawatts, which would provide electricity to nearly 30 million homes. “This will represent a third of European capacity for offshore wind turbines,” insisted Ursula von der Leyen. Investments will also be made to better interconnect the electricity networks of all the countries present.

Norway singled out

Except that all these decisions will not bear fruit for several years and that the question is how European countries will spend the winter. There, tensions arise. Norway, which does not border the Baltic Sea and is not part of the EU, is a big producer of gas, which the Nordic countries rely on as an alternative to Russian supplies.

But last week, the Norwegian government refused to ask its hydrocarbon producers to sell their gas to Europeans at preferential rates or via forward contracts with fixed prices. A reluctance which is explained by the difficulties experienced by the Norwegian sovereign wealth fund, which derives its revenue from the sale of hydrocarbons.

Still, this decision displeases the buyer countries who accuse Norway of profiting from the war in Ukraine and playing into Vladimir Putin’s game while the country is a member of NATO. Earlier in the month, Norway, facing a severe drought and therefore a drop in hydroelectric production, decided to stop selling its electricity abroad when it is usually a net exporter to the countries of the EU. This risks aggravating supply difficulties this winter.


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